Obituary: Kim Bok-dong, the South Korean 'comfort woman'

The coffin passed the Japanese embassy in Seoul, accompanied on its final journey by mourners waving banners and holding yellow butterflies.

Cries of “Japan must apologise” rang out above the crowd, while others quietly sobbed.

It was not your usual funeral procession. But then, Kim Bok-dong was not your usual woman, and this was her final act of resistance against a country which had stolen so much from her.

Kim was one of thousands of so-called “comfort women” rounded up by the Japanese army and forced to work as sex slaves for years on end.

She died on Monday, at the age of 92, without ever receiving the apology she wanted; still railing against the injustice; still angry with Japan for taking the life she could and should have had.

“I was born a woman,” she said, “but I never lived as a woman.”

‘I had to comply’

It took Kim Bok-dong almost 40 years to find the strength to tell her story.

She was just 14 when the Japanese soldiers arrived at her family’s home in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang. They said she was needed to work in a factory. If she did not come, they warned her mother, the family would suffer.

But Kim was not taken to work in a factory. Instead, the teenager found herself transported to one of hundreds of “comfort stations” set up by the Japanese Imperial Army across the territory it had seized.

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