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South Korea comfort woman dies; 18 remain alive

South Korea's registered comfort women are dwindling in number as more of the victims of Japan's wartime policies die of old age. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
South Korea's registered comfort women are dwindling in number as more of the victims of Japan's wartime policies die of old age. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

March 3 (UPI) -- A former South Korean comfort woman forced to serve in Japanese brothels during World War II has died, according to a local NGO.

The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, the South Korean group that regularly organizes rallies outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, said Tuesday a former comfort woman with the surname Lee passed away at age 92, Segye Ilbo and Newsis reported.

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There are a total of 240 South Koreans who are registered with the government as former comfort women. Lee's death means there are now only 18 registered women alive, according to reports.

Lee, who died in Daegu, the South Korean city at the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak, was born in the city of Pohang in 1928, according to Yoon Mi-hyang, director of the Korean Council.

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Yoon did not say Lee's death was connected to the epidemic.

The South Korean activist said Lee migrated to China "in order to earn money" at a textile factory that specialized in the weaving of hemp cloth, likely referring to a site in Manchukuo, the Japanese-occupied area of northeast China.

"She went to the factory, only to experience unimaginable horror as a sex slave under the Japanese military," Yoon said.

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The activist also said Lee was unable to repatriate to the peninsula after Korea's liberation in 1945. Lee resettled in China, which fell under communist rule in 1949.

Lee eventually returned to her homeland in the 2000s and was able to regain her South Korean citizenship, Yoon said.

Lee Jung-ok, South Korea's minister of gender equality and family, expressed deep regret on Tuesday.

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Lee said Seoul would fully support the welfare of the remaining 18 women, according to reports.

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