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Lee Ok Seon


Lee Ok Seon was 14 when she was kidnapped from Ulsan, Korea, and taken to a “comfort station" in Yanji, China – one of an estimated 400 stations throughout China and Southern Asia. When recounting her experience, she said, “If we refused to accept soldiers they threatened us by cutting our bodies with military swords." After the end of the war, the owner of the “comfort station” abandoned the girls in the mountains.  Stuck in China, Ok Seon had to beg for a living before meeting her husband, a widower in China whose children would eventually call Ok Seon ‘mom.’ She was unable to bear children because of a disease she contracted in the “comfort stations.” Despite the end of the Pacific War, Ok Seon did not have the courage to go back to her homeland and her family officially registered her death. In December of 1996, at age 68, Ok Seon landed in Kimpo airport and arrived in Korea for the first time in 53 years. She spent a year proving her identity and officially registering as Korean Comfort Woman.


In 2000, Ok Seon officially began living in the House of Sharing, a nursing home for surviving Comfort Women. In 2002, she went to Brown University to 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 legal battle against the Japanese government to pay 100 million won to each victim. “We want an apology, not compensation,” she stated, “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 only witnesses who could verbally communicate. In 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, 2022, Lee Ok Seon passed away from acute pneumonia. 

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