2 comfort women die in the same hourTwo more victims of Japanese military sexual slavery during World War II - 81-year-old Kim Oi-hwan and 91-year-old Kim Dal-seon - died within half an hour of each other Thursday evening.
The two died without getting a proper official apology from the Japanese government to the “comfort women,” a euphemistic term for the tens of thousands of young women and girls forced into wartime military brothels by the Japanese Imperial Army.
Kim Oi-hwan, the youngest of the surviving Korean victims, passed away on Thursday around 8:40 p.m. of chronic illness at a hospital in Gwangju, Gyeonggi.
Born in Andong, North Gyeongsang, she was forced into sexual slavery in Hokkaido just before the end of World War II in February 1945 at the tender age of 11. She was released after the war and married a man who also returned to Korea after being conscripted to work in Japan. The two settled in Andong and had five children.
In late 2012, Kim moved to the House of Sharing, a home for the sex slave victims in Gyeonggi. She suffered from emotional trauma from the violence she suffered during her time in the brothels and had trouble walking because of a knee problem. Her husband, who remained in Andong, visited her once a month.
A little over 30 minutes later on the same day, another victim from the same province, Kim Dal-seon, passed away at 9:15 p.m. at a hospital in her hometown of Pohang, North Gyeongsang, of natural causes related to old age.
Kim was kidnapped by a Japanese police officer at the age of 19 in 1943 while she was selling fish at a market with her mother. She was dragged onto a boat headed to Myanmar.
Because of the abuse she endured as a sex slave, she eventually had two surgeries on her uterus and even attempted suicide. She did not initially even know that the war ended in 1945 and continued to be used by the Japanese military. Eventually she got on a boat to Busan, where she stayed for two years recovering her health.
In 1947, she returned to her parents in Pohang but lost her father and male siblings during the Korean War. She made her living selling rice, fish and vegetables. She didn’t marry until she was nearly 50, and lived with her husband in Daegu until he passed away from complications of diabetes.
She received care at a nursing home in Daegu for the past several years before she moved back to Pohang to spend the remaining years of her life.
The deaths bring the total number of Korean survivors of wartime sexual slavery to 50. A total of 238 former sex slaves were officially registered with the government.
Minister of Gender Equality and Family Kim Hee-jung on Friday paid respects to the two women’s families at their wakes on Friday.
“An apology when there are no more victims alive will be meaningless,” she said in a statement. “If there is no apology while they are alive, the perpetrator country needs to bear in mind that it will remain another indelible historical error in the history of mankind.”
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]