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Kim Kun Ja


Kim Kun Ja was born in Pyongchang, Korea, in 1926. Kun Ja lost her father when she was 10 and her mother when she was 14. She was placed as a foster-child under Choi Chul Ji, a colonial police officer, and took on menial house tasks. When she was 16, Choi demanded that Kun Ja find work. Kun Ja was later approached by a Korean military officer who told her that she could be paid for a quick errand. This officer took Kun Ja to a freight train, where seven other girls were waiting for work. The train took the girls to Hunchun, China.


Upon arrival, Kun Ja was taken by a Japanese officer who raped her. In her testimony in front of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Kun Ja stated, “That was the first of many days and nights that I was raped. On a daily basis, I was raped by Japanese soldiers, and it was common to be raped by 20 different soldiers a day, and on some days, it was as high as 40. If we fought or resisted the rapes, we would be punished, beaten or stabbed by the soldiers.” For three years, she was raped and tortured. She was beaten so hard during her captivity that she permanently lost hearing in her left ear. When the Japanese officers found out she was pregnant, they forced her to have an abortion. Eventually, when the war ended, the girls were simply told to leave. Kun Ja and six other Comfort Women trekked home. They survived by “eating roots and vegetation from the ground.”  When she returned home, Kun Ja met her old lover and dreamt of getting married. However, he later committed suicide after his family’s refusal to approve of Kun Ja. Kun Ja gave birth to a baby girl and worked as a housekeeper.

When other Comfort Women began to officially register as a Comfort Woman, Kim Kun Ja also broke her silence. She testified before the US Congress in support of House Resolution 121, a landmark bill demanding the Government of Japan officially apologize for their involvement in the Comfort Women system. In her testimony she said, “The Japanese government did not treat us as humans… Although many Comfort Women have passed away, history is alive. You cannot compensate for my ruined life with money.”


Among other things, Kim Kun Ja was a passionate supporter of education. She saved every little penny she earned and donated her life savings to the Beautiful Foundation to help students who, like her, had lost their parents and could not receive a proper education. Upon her first donation (50,000 dollars) Kun Ja said, “I was an orphan. All I had was eight months of night school. I think life was difficult because I lost my parents as a child and didn’t learn anything… I often think that if I had learned a little, my life wouldn’t have been this hard. I want to help poor and parentless children have an opportunity to learn… But I’m sorry and embarrassed that this is so little money.” The Kim Kun Ja Fund eventually raised around 960,000 dollars and has helped fund education programs for poor orphaned students. Before she passed, Kun Ja provided 250 orphans a chance at a better life by funding their life-long education. On July 23, 2017, at 91 years old, Kim Kun Ja donated her life savings and passed away.

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