top of page

Kang Duk Kyung



Kang Duk Kyung was born in February of 1929 in Jinju, Korea. She lost her father when she was young and her mother remarried. After she graduated middle school, Duk Kyung and her friend were sent to work as part of the Female Volunteer Labor Corps in Fujikoshi, Japan. The girls were forced to work around 12 hours a day and were given no pay. After two months of painstaking labor, Duk Kyung and her friend decided to run away. However, they were caught, and when they were transported to a “comfort station.” The moment when Duk Kyung was first raped by a Japanese soldier is depicted in her painting “Purity Stolen.” 


Each day, Duk Kyung was forced to service around 10 Japanese soldiers. Saturdays were when the most soldiers came — for that, Duk Kyung would resent Saturdays for the rest of her life.  Five months after her arrival at a “comfort station,” the Pacific War ended and Duk Kyung returned home. 


She gave birth to a son that was conceived in the “comfort station.”  In 1946, when she returned home with the baby, Duk Kyung’s mother disapproved of the baby’s origins and had to send the child to an orphanage run by a Catholic church. Duk Kyung visited her son every week. One day, Duk Kyung as usual went to visit her son at the orphanage.  The staff notified Duk Kyung that her four-year-old son had died of pneumonia and that the funeral was already over. Duk Kyung could not even retrieve or see the body of her dead son. This grief, coupled with her numerous health problems, plagued her for the rest of her life. 


Kang Duk Kyung was initially hesitant to come forward when she saw other Comfort Women on TV, but eventually decided to register as a Comfort Woman when the Japanese government began denying their crimes. She played a prominent role in getting the Comfort Women story out to the international community, testifying in front of the Japanese assembly and UN Human Rights Council. Even when she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in December 1995, she continued to participate in the Wednesday Demonstrations. She is celebrated for her poignant artwork about Comfort Women. Kang passed away due to lung cancer on February 2, 1996.  


In 2000, she officially began to live in the House of Sharing, a nursing home for surviving Comfort Women. In 2002, she went to Brown University to actively spread awareness about the Comfort Women issue. She has been an active voice in the fight for justice. She was one of the 12 Comfort Women represented in a current legal battle against the Japanese government to pay 100 million won to each victim. “We want an apology, not compensation,” she added. “If we sought money, 300 million won, let alone 100 million won, will not be enough.” Out of the 12 original plaintiffs, Ok Seon was one of the 5 surviving Comfort Women, and one of the only witnesses who could verbally communicate. Ok Seon is one of the 5 surviving Comfort Women from the original 12 plaintiffs. Out of the 5, she and another Comfort Woman are the only ones who are able to communicate. Her testimony will be crucial in the fight for justiceIn January 2021, the Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of the Comfort Women and ordered the Japanese government to pay 100 million won ($79,000) each to the 12 Comfort Women. On December 26, Kim Ok Seon passed away from acute pneumonia.


"Purity Stolen" by Kang Duk Kyung


"Punish those responsible” by Kang Duk Kyung

bottom of page