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Kim Bok Dong

Kim Bok Dong was born in Yangsan, Korea on May 1, 1926. When Bok Dong was 14, she was forcibly taken by Japanese soldiers to work in a factory. Instead of a factory, Bok Dong was forced to work in Japanese-operated “comfort stations” in Guandong Province, China. At the age of 15, she endured years of sexual slavery. According to Bok Dong, “On weekdays, I had to take 15 soldiers a day… on Saturdays and Sundays, it was more than 50.” For eight years, Bok Dong was trafficked around different “comfort stations” across Asia – Hong Kong, Malaysia, Sumatra, Indonesia, Burma, among others. She returned home to Korea when she was 22. Like other Comfort Women, Bok Dong felt ashamed of her experience and only told her mother, who soon died of a heart attack after her daughter’s return – Bok Dong continued to believe that the pain of her secret contributed to her mother’s death. Bok Dong stated in an interview in 2013, "Even as I returned to my homeland, it was never true liberation for me."


In 1992, at the age of 66,  Bok Dong officially registered as a Comfort Woman  and demanded an official apology from the Japanese government. She quickly became a prominent and beloved activist who fought for victims of sexual violence all over the world. In June of 1993, she testified at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria. In 2012, along with Gil Won Ok, another surviving Comfort Woman, Bok Dong set up the Butterfly Fund to raise funds for victims of sexual violence and war crimes all over the world.  At a press conference marking the creation of the Butterfly Fund, Bok Dong stated, “I’m a former Comfort Woman and I continue to stand in front of the Japanese embassy every Wednesday to fight for the restoration of our honor and human rights, but I’m also only too aware of what women around the world who are victims of wartime sexual violence just like us are suffering even now. That makes me want to help those women.” She later donated 50 million Won to the Butterfly Fund and continued to donate all of her savings to the fund. Kim Bok Dong used the Butterfly Fund to help victims of sexual violence in Congo, and most notably in Vietnam, where she provided funds for women who were raped by Korean soldiers between 1964 and 1973 during the Vietnam War. Despite the pain she suffered from the Japanese, in 2011, when a tsunami swept the Japanese mainland and killed over 15,000 people, Bok Dong began fundraising efforts to help with recovery efforts. 


In 2015, Bok Dong joined other Comfort Women in denouncing a half-hearted deal negotiated between the Korean and Japanese government. Bok Dong criticized the lack of apology or admission from the Japanese government: “We won’t accept it even if Japan gives 10bn Yen. It’s not about money. They’re still saying we went there [comfort stations] because we wanted to.” During this time, Bok Dong continued to provide scholarships to activists and students all around the world, especially to ethnic Koreans in Japan who are treated as second-class citizens. In 2018, while Bok Dong was battling cancer, she held a one-person demonstration demanding the dissolution of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation – an initiative launched from the heavily criticized negotiations between Seoul and Tokyo back in 2015. On January 29, 2019, Kim Bok Dong passed away from cancer. In the last few hours of her life, Kim Bok Dong said that her final wish was for those around her to continue fighting for the Comfort Women and continue supporting ethnic Korean students in Japan. 

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