WASHINGTON, June 29 (Yonhap) — An elderly South Korean victim of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery on Monday urged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to own up to the atrocity while at the same time calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to “guide a friend onto the right path.”
Kim Bok-dong, 89, issued the appeal after arriving in Washington to attend a protest rally to be held in front of Japan’s embassy on Wednesday to denounce Tokyo’s attempt to whitewash the atrocity and to call for a clear apology and compensation.
The rally would represent the 1,185th “Wednesday rally” sexual slavery victims and activists have held in front of Japan’s embassy in Seoul since 1992. It would also mark the first time for a sexual slavery victim, known euphemistically as “comfort women,” to hold a rally front of Japan’s embassy in Washington.
“Even if Abe didn’t do it and the emperor did it, he should ask for forgiveness for what his ancestors did because it is him that is now holding power,” Kim told reporters at a news conference, urging the Japanese leader to offer a legal apology and compensation and restore the honor of victims.
Kim, who was born in 1926, was forced into sexual slavery at age 14 and had to provide sex for Japanese troops in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It was when Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945.
Kim said she was told she was going to a military uniform factory, but ended up at a Japanese military-run brothel. In an attempt to cover up the sexual slavery at the end of the war, Japanese authorities also had victims work as nurses, Kim said.
Kim said she even had to donate blood for Japanese troops.
“Those who even stole my blood are now denying this,” she said.
Kim said she thinks Korea has not been liberated from colonial rule yet as the sexual slavery issue has not been resolved.
Before Washington, Kim attended a United Church of Christ workshop in Cleveland and spoke about the hardships she went through.
While in Washington, Kim also plans to attend a George Washington University seminar on the issue and hold a meeting with State Department officials, including Cathy Russell, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues.
Kim’s effort to raise issues on forgotten comfort women was recognized internationally. Earlier this month, the 89-year-old was honored as one of the top 100 “Information Heroes” by the the Paris-based group,Reporters Without Borders.
Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. But Japan has long attempted to water down the atrocity.
The sexual slavery issue has been the biggest thorn in frayed relations between Japan and South Korea, with Seoul demanding Tokyo take steps to address the grievances of elderly Korean victims of the atrocity and Japan refusing to do so.