‘Comfort women’ will get a new home this fall

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‘Comfort women’ will get a new home this fall

For almost 10 years, three surviving “comfort women” have lived in rented rooms with a leaking roof during the monsoon season.

This season will be their last.

This fall they will get a new - and dry - home.

These comfort women, a euphemistic reference to Koreans forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II, will move into a new residence in Mapo District, western Seoul, in September, the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan said yesterday.

The three women, including Kim Bok-dong, 86, rent rooms in a small, old house in Chungjeongno, Seodaemun District, also in western Seoul.

The two-story, six-room structure, known as “Our House,” has been leased by the council since December 2003. The house was built in 1978 and during the summer monsoon season, rainwater leaked so heavily that the women had to set out buckets.

But two years ago, they found they might not have a roof over their heads at all.

Because the neighborhood was designated as a renovation area, Kim and her two companions received notice to vacate the house.

In 2010, the council, with the support of volunteer groups and the Myungsung Presbyterian Church, began building a new shelter. The new Mapo home will be a two-story, 214.5-square-meter (2,308-square-foot) private residence with a basement on 313.5 square meters of land.

The house was purchased under the Myungsung Presbyterian Church, and the women will be able to live the rest of their lives there free of charge. Purchasing and renovating the house cost 1.6 billion won ($1.4 million).

The council stated that while they were grateful to the owner of the Seodaemun house for not raising jeonse, or long-term housing deposit, prices over the years, because they were leasing the room they were not able to fix all the household problems as they would have liked. So even though “they are not the owners of the new building, the grandmothers are happy” about the new arrangement, said the council. Volunteer groups supporting the council will announce the opening of the new residence for comfort women at the upcoming 1,032nd weekly Wednesday rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul.

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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