Former comfort women establish fund for female war victims
Women used in sexual slavery show desire to help others
By Jung Hwan-bong
The Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan announced Wednesday that any legal compensation received from the Japanese government by former comfort women Kim Bok-dong, 86, and Gil Won-ok, 84, would be used to help female war victims.
The council set plans to establish a fund for this purpose, tentatively titled the Butterfly Fund, and selected as the first support recipient Rebecca Masika Katsuva, a war victim from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Masika Katsuva set up the Listening House following her own 1998 sexual assault by soldiers in the Congolese civil war. The activist has worked over the years to help other female victims of war and adopted their children.
The fund also comes across as something of a final wish, since the women‘s authority for posthumous compensation claims is being conferred to the council.
Speaking to the Hankyoreh on Tuesday at the council’s shelter in the Chungcheongno neighborhood of Seoul‘s Seodaemun district, Kim explained the reasons behind the decision to establish the fund by saying, “We thought that since we had experienced [victimization due to war], other people must also have had the same experience as us.”
Council chairwoman Yun Mi-hyang said, “With this decision, the council has been entrusted with compensation claim authority and can demand accountability for Japan’s war crimes to the last even after the comfort women have passed away.”
Yun said the greatest significance of the fund‘s establishment was that “it makes it clear that what the comfort women for the Japanese military want is not money, but a formal apology from the Japanese government.”
The Japanese government has consistently insisted on an approach of addressing the comfort women issue by sending compensation through the Asian Women’s Fund, a private group. It also maintains that it cannot give any legal compensation or formal apology beyond what was agreed upon with the 1965 Korea-Japan Basic Treaty.
The council has expressed its opposition to the Asian Women‘s Fund, arguing that the comfort women issue was not dealt with at the time of the treaty and that it requires resolution through legal compensation and an apology from the Japanese government rather than privately given compensation.
Kim and Gil also refused funding from the Asian Women’s Fund.
The council currently plans to develop the Butterfly Fund into a separate foundation and increase support for female war victims through citizen contributions.
The council Lawyers for a Democratic Society are also planning a press conference at the council‘s offices in the Yeongeon neighborhood of Seoul’s Jongno district on Mar. 8, which is International Women‘s Day. There, they plan to state the final wishes of the comfort women and formally launch the fund.