Third former ‘comfort woman’ dies this month

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Third former ‘comfort woman’ dies this month

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Kim Yeon-hee

Kim Yeon-hee, one of the Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, passed away Wednesday night. She was 83.

Her death follows that of two other “comfort women,” as they are euphemistically known, who passed away two weeks ago.

According to the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic organization supporting the victims, Kim died at about 10 p.m. at a hospital in Yongin, Gyeonggi.

She died of natural causes, the group said.

Kim was born in 1932 in Daegu, according to the organization, and moved to Seoul at age 5.

In 1944, just a year before Japanese colonial rule ended, Kim was forcibly brought to Japan by her elementary school’s principal, a Japanese national. She was in fifth grade at the time.

Kim was forced to work in a military brothel in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan for about seven months after working at a factory in the central Toyama Prefecture for about nine months.

After the peninsula was liberated in 1945, she returned to Korea where she received treatment at a mental facility due to the trauma she experienced in the brothel. She worked as a housekeeper and never married.

Kim is the third former comfort woman to die this month alone, which brings the total number of surviving Korean victims to 49. A total of 238 former sex slaves were officially registered with the government.

Kim Oi-hwan, the youngest of the survivors, and Kim Dal-seon passed away on June 11, dying within half an hour of each other.

The comfort women issue has long been a source of historical dispute between Korea and Japan, adding to tensions and straining relations. The Japanese government has yet to issue a formal apology to its victims.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan, so it is hoped that new developments may bring the issue closer to a resolution.

Earlier this month, President Park Geun-hye told the Washington Post that “considerable progress” had been made between Seoul and Tokyo in negotiations regarding an apology by Japan and reparations to the victims.

On Monday, President Park met Fukushiro Nukaga, who visited Korea as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s special envoy, at the Blue House, where he pledged to facilitate progress in ongoing negotiations for the issue.

BY NAM YOON-SEO [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]

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