Jeong Yun-hong, one of the few surviving former “comfort women,” who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during World War II, died on Dec. 31 at her home in Ilsan, northwest of Seoul, a support group said Monday. She was 90 years old.
Her death reduced the number of the state-registered former Korean comfort women to 79.
The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group seeking compensation for comfort women, said that Jeong was drafted as a comfort woman in 1942. She served in China after learning about the death of her husband, who was also drafted to the war.
She was discharged the following year after becoming pregnant. She made a living by working as a street vendor in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province after giving birth. She stayed at the support group’s shelter in 2003 and fought to get the Japanese government to recognize and apologize to the victims.
“It is time the government should step up efforts to solve the problem. The witnesses and victims are dying,” a spokeswoman for the KCW told The Korea Herald.
The comfort women is one of the thorniest issues between Seoul and Tokyo regarding Japan’s colonial rule of Korea from 1910-45. Amid strong resistance from the Japanese government, which still claims the women’s sexual service was voluntary, the practice was defined by the U.N. and the International Labor Organization, as well as other international agencies, as an inhumane crime. In 2007, the U.S. Congress also passed a resolution requesting the Japanese government’s swift response to resolve it.
Supporters of the comfort women note time is running out to resolve the issue as many victims are now dying. Nine died last year and the majority of the survivors are in poor health.
Last month, lawyers from Japan and South Korea demanded the Japanese government apologize to the victims and pay them compensation.
A support group member pays tribute to deceased comfort women at a weekly Wednesday protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Dec. 29. (Yonhap News)
In November, activists from all over the world collected signatures of 300,000 people calling for a swift settlement of the issue.
“It is time to make aggressive progress,” Yang Noh-ja, director of the KCW, said in an interview held before the event.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com)