Kim Hak-sun

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Kim Hak-sun
Revised RomanizationGim Haksun
McCune–ReischauerKim Haksun
Kim Hak-Sun.jpg
DiedDecember 1997

Kim Hak-sun was a Korean human rights activist who campaigned against sex slavery and wartime sexual violence. Hak-sun was among many young women, referred to euphemistically as "comfort women", who was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army between the early 1930s up until the end of the Pacific War.[1] She is known as the first woman to come forward publicly as a former comfort woman in August 1991.[2] In December 1991, she filed a class-action lawsuit against the Japanese government for the damages inflicted during the war.[3] At that time, she was the first of what would become hundreds of women from Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Netherlands who came forward to tell their stories of their enslavement to the Imperial Japanese military.[2] She was inspired to finally take her story public after 40 years of silence by the growth of the women's rights movement in South Korea.[2] Kim died in 1997, with the court case still ongoing.


Early years[edit]

Kim Hak-sun was born in 1924 in Jilin China. She and her mother returned to Pyongyang after the death of her father, who died when she was only three months old. While living in Pyongyang, Hak-sun attended a missionary school where she held fond memories of "lessons, sports, and playing with my friends."[1] At the age of 14, her mother remarried. Hak-sun had a difficult time becoming accustomed to her stepfather and eventually rebelled, causing her mother to send her to live with a foster family who trained kisaeng.[1] She attended the academy for two years where she learned many forms of entertainment, including the art of dance, song, and pansori, among other things. She graduated at the age of 17 and was thus unable to obtain a license to work as a kisaeng, which required a minimum age of 19.[1] Her foster father was subsequently unable to find work for her in Korea, and so sought out opportunities in China.

Life as a comfort woman[edit]

Hak-sun's travels with her foster father eventually brought her to Beijing. Upon their arrival, they were approached by a Japanese soldier who took her foster father aside, suspecting him to be a spy. Hak-sun was subsequently abducted by other Japanese soldiers and was taken to a comfort station where she was forced to work as a comfort woman along with four other Korean women. During her stay, she was given the Japanese name, Aiko. After four months had passed, Hak-sun managed to escape the comfort station she was being held at with the help of a Korean man who later became her husband and the father of her two children.[1]

Conflicting story[edit]

In an interview with Korean newspaper The Hankyoreh published on May 15th, 1991, Kim Hak-sun said that she was sold to the owner of a comfort station by her mother.

After the escape[edit]

Shortly after the liberation of Korea in 1945, Hak-sun and her family returned to Korea. She lived in a refugee camp in Seoul for three months, where her daughter died from cholera. Some time after 1953, her husband died due to wounds incurred when the roof of a building he had been working in collapsed on top of him.[1] Upon recalling the death of her husband, Hak-sun said:

I had suffered so much, living with this man who had supposedly been my husband. When he was drunk and aggressive, because he knew that I had been a comfort woman, he would insult me with words that had cut me to the heart. . . . He had tortured me mentally so much that I did not miss him a lot.[1]

Her young son died of a heart attack while swimming at sea.


The story of Kim's life as a Korean "comfort woman" was published in the book The Korean Comfort Women Who Were Coercively Dragged Away for the Military, published in Korea in 1993. The book was edited by the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, and includes the stories of 18 other women who were also forced to be comfort women. Her chapter of the book was translated into English and published in the book True Stories of the Korean Comfort Women."

In 1995, she appeared in a stage play entitled "Disappeared in Twilight" about the life of comfort women.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g True stories of the Korean comfort women : testimonies. Howard, Keith, 1956-, Han'guk Chŏngsindae Munje Taech'aek Hyŏbŭihoe., Chŏngsindae Yŏnʼguhoe (Korea). London: Cassell. 1995. ISBN 0304332623. OCLC 36008713.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ a b c Kazue, Muta (July 2016). "The 'comfort women' issue and the embedded culture of sexual violence in contemporary Japan". Current Sociology. 64 (4): 620–636. doi:10.1177/0011392116640475. ISSN 0011-3921.
  3. ^ Soh, Chunghee Sarah (1996). "The Korean "Comfort Women": Movement for Redress". Asian Survey. 36 (12): 1226–1240. doi:10.2307/2645577. ISSN 0004-4687. JSTOR 2645577.

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