Protest against ‘comfort women’ foundation

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Protest against ‘comfort women’ foundation


Kim Bok-dong, a survivor of forced sexual slavery under the Japanese military, protests the establishment of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Seoul on Monday. [YONHAP]

Heavy rain could not stop Kim Bok-dong, 92, from staging a lone protest outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the thick of rush hour on Monday.

Kim, a victim of forced sexual slavery under the Japanese military, is the first of what will likely be many to protest the establishment of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, a controversial government agency built with a 1 billion yen ($9 million) contribution from Japan to appease the so-called comfort women.

“It’s only been five days since I had my surgery [for cancer],” Kim said, sitting in a wheelchair and holding a picket sign against her legs, “but I was more upset staying in bed and had to come out and say something.”

She blamed the previous administration under President Park Geun-hye for allowing the foundation to be set up in Korea. In 2015, Park’s government signed an agreement with Tokyo in which Japan pledged to provide funding for the foundation.

The agreement reached between Park and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked strong backlash from Korean victims and the president’s critics.

Kim is among 27 surviving Korean victims who were forcibly taken by the Japanese military to serve soldiers in brothels during World War II. Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945.

“We didn’t fight for this just to get compensated,” she said. “Offer us 100 billion won? We won’t take it. We told the government to return it, and they’re still not doing it.”

Kim urged the current president, Moon Jae-in, to take action and completely disband the foundation, which has effectively stopped functioning amid the backlash.

She also asked a Japanese correspondent at the scene to “deliver her message” to Abe and called on Japan to “sincerely apologize” for actions committed during colonial rule.

The demonstration’s organizers plan to regularly hold it near the ministry’s headquarters through the end of this month.

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