‘Comfort woman’ donates to charity

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‘Comfort woman’ donates to charity

DAEGU - Kim Soon-ak, an 82-year-old former “comfort woman” who passed away in January, wrote a will giving half her 108 million won ($95,000) to a local charity, a branch of Community Chest of Korea in Daegu.

The rest she gave to an organization in Daegu that plans to build a museum to remember the atrocities committed against so-called comfort women, or sexual slaves, by the Japanese government during the colonial period on the Korean Peninsula.

“Kim used to like young people very much because she was only 16 when she was kidnapped by the Japanese military and forced to work as a comfort woman for Japanese soldiers,” said Lee In-soon, the director general at Daegu Citizen Forum for Halmuni that advocates for the rights of comfort women. Lee gave 54 million won from Kim to the Community Chest organization last Thursday. It will be used for covering living expenses and providing scholarships to 56 young adults in poverty-stricken families. The rest of the money was given to the museum project.

Born in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang, in 1928, Kim was kidnapped and sent to Harbin in China as a sex slave for Japanese military troops in 1944.

When Korea was liberated from Japanese rule, Kim returned to Korea and worked as a housekeeper in Seoul before returning to her hometown of Gyeongsan in 1997.

When she registered as a victim of Japanese atrocities with the Korean government in 2000, she received a subsidy of 800,000 won from the central government and the Gyeongsan city government. She didn’t use the money but kept it to donate to the socially underprivileged.

“I just learned about her donations and she really made a remarkable decision to give the money to society and not to her son,” Lee Yong-soo, an 80-year-old former comfort woman who knew Kim well. She wept as she talked about her late friend.

In 2003, Kim visited the Japanese cities of Nagoya and Hiroshima to give seminars on the history of comfort women and to raise awareness about the issue to the international public.

“Kim used to tell us the war brought pain to [Koreans] and children can live happier without war,” said Lee of the Daegu Citizen Forum for Halmuni. “She was a peace advocate and also a human rights activist who called for the dignity of mankind.”

By Hong Kwon-sam [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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