Kim Hak-sun

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

Kim Hak-sun was a Korean human rights activist who campaigned against sex slavery and war rape. During World War II, Hak-sun was among many young women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army. She was the first woman to come forward about the plight of the comfort woman. As the first to share her story, she helped to bring to the public's attention the issue of Japanese sex slavery during the Pacific War when she went public with her story in August, 1991. At a press conference, she described her suffering as a comfort woman.[1] She said that seeing the Japanese imperial flag "still makes me shudder. Until now, I did not have the courage to speak, even though there are so many thing I want to say." [2] In December, 1991, she filed a class-action lawsuit against the Japanese government.[3][4] At that time, she was the first of what would become dozens of women from Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Netherlands who came forward to tell their stories of being forced to be sex slaves of Japanese military. She was the lead plaintiff and initially the only one to use her real name in connection with the case.[4] 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.[5] Kim died in 1997, with the court case still ongoing.


Kim Hak-sun was sold to a family that trained kisaeng in Pyongyang at the age of 15, by her mother who could not afford to raise her. She was given the new name Kumhwa and trained there as a kisaeng for two years.[1] In 1941, when she was 17, the kisaeng house owner took her and a friend to China since they were unable to find business in Korea.[1] While there, she and her friend were forcefully taken by Japanese soldiers to an abandoned home where they were raped. She testified:

No longer able to make ends meet, my mother sold me to a kisaeng house owner in Pyongyang when I was 15. After living there for two years, I thought I had gotten my first job. But the place I was taken by the kisaeng house owner who had adopted me was a division of the Japanese Army in North China. There were more than 300 soldiers there. First I was sold for ¥40, then trained to be an entertainer for a few years, and after that I went to a place where Japanese soldiers were stationed.[6]

However, instead of paying them, the Japanese military imprisoned them as sex slaves in a "comfort station" that was a quasi-brothel. She and her friend as well as two others were forced to service a small group of Japanese service men, as well as some other men the Japanese soldiers brought in. She spent four months at two different "comfort stations" in China before meeting a middle-aged Korean man who helped her to escape. He later married her and they had two children, a boy and a girl. By the time Kim came forward with her story, however, her husband and children had died.[7][1]


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 Howard, Keith; et al. (1995). Keith Howard, ed. True stories of the Korean comfort women: testimonies. Cassell. p. 32. ISBN 0304332623.
  2. ^ Chosun Ilbo (English Edition). Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  3. ^ Digital Museum, retrieved March 13, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Japan's National/Asian Women's Fund for "Comfort Women" C. Sarah Soh. Pacific Affairs Vol. 76, No. 2 (Summer, 2003), pp. 209-233 Published by: Pacific Affairs, University of British Columbia
  5. ^ Reihana Mohideen. Green Left, July 31, 1996. Retrieved March 3, 2012
  6. ^ Nishioka, Tsutomu. "Behind the Comfort Women Controversy: How lies became truth" (PDF). Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact.
  7. ^ "종군 위안부 참상 알리겠다". Hankyoreh. August 15, 1991.

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