It is with grave sadness that I inform you that Bok-Dong Kim, a peace advocate and human rights activist, passed away yesterday. She was 93. A few months ago, on September 3, 2018, despite having had surgery five days prior, she staged a solo protest in pouring rain, demanding the disbandment of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation.
The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation was established on July 28, 2016 with the 1 billion yen from the Japanese government as part of the flawed 2015 “Comfort Women” agreement between South Korea and Japan. According to the deal, Japan would pay 1 billion JPY (around 8.3 million USD in 2015) in “charity” to South Korea to help victims of the “comfort women” system. In exchange, South Korea was to establish a foundation to help the survivors, provide no support for other efforts to install statues or monuments related to “comfort women” in other countries, stop referring the victims as sex slaves, and remove the “comfort women” statue across from the Japanese embassy in Seoul.
On November 21, 2018, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family of South Korea made a formal announcement that the South Korean government will begin the process of closing the foundation, taking account of the victims’ demands.
When Congressman Mike Honda and I visited Bok-Dong “Grandma” Kim at the hospital on November 7 of last year, she asked visitors to keep fighting for her and her cause.
In one of her last videos, recorded at Peaceful Our House at the Korean Council, she said, “Although sometimes I question whether or not our situation is hopeful, I know we need to hold onto hope. I do. Please follow me. Let’s gather our strength and not forget about hope. Let’s hold onto hope together.”
ESJF hopes her message of resilient activism will assuage the deep sadness we feel. ESJF also expresses condolences to everyone at the Korean Council, who became a big loving family for Bok-Dong Kim, an unforgettable peace advocate and human rights activist.
With deepest condolences,