On February 12, ESJF co-founders attended the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting, where Gordon Mar of District 4 issued a commendation in honor of late Grandma Kim Bok-Dong. The ceremony reminded all who attended of the importance of peace, human rights, and the role that education plays in securing justice for those who may not have the means to seek it themselves.
*Halmoni means “grandmother” in Korean. This term also refers to a Korean “comfort women” survivor who has been involved in the struggle for justice since the 1990s.
On February 11, ESJF co-founders attended late SF Mayor Ed Lee’s film premiere at the Herbst Theatre. Approximately 300 people attended the sold-out event. Amongst the attendees were Mayor Ed Lee’s family members and Mayor London Breed who are pictured below. We at ESJF dearly miss Ed Lee, a genuine and caring leader who stood up for the neglected and marginalized, including former “comfort women,” for whom he demanded justice.
Today is Bok-Dong Kim Halmoni’s funeral in South Korea.
Her funeral will be open to the public as a “citizen’s funeral,” attended by her supporters, who became her de facto extended family.
According to Mee-Hyang Yoon, Chair of the Board of the Korean Council, who stayed by Kim’s side as she took her last breath, Kim expressed “rage toward Japan” and called for the continued fight to receive an official apology from Japan.
On January 29th, according to the Korea Heard, “South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent a condolence message, praising Kim for dedicating her life to revealing hidden aspects of history and restoring the dignity of human beings. ‘Grandmother (Kim Bok-dong) did not remain a victim, but was at the forefront of setting history straight by demanding an apology and legal compensation for Japan’s aggression,’ Moon said on his Facebook page. ‘I will not forget to set history right,’ he said, vowing to fulfill his duty to the 23 living survivors.
Later in the day, Moon visited the funeral home, where a memorial altar for the deceased was set up, to pay his respects.”
Click here for more information on her legacy from the New York Times.
Two days ago, the City of Glendale issued an “In Memoriam” honoring her lifetime activism in human rights and advocacy for peace at the City Council meeting.
*Halmoni means “grandmother” in Korean. The victims are often addressed as “grandmothers” because the young girls and women who were once sex slaves had grown old by the time the inhumane crimes committed against them were made known to the world. Bok-Dong Kim Halmoni often identified herself as a butterfly freely flying, rising from the bondage of suffering.
With deepest condolences,
The workshop held last Saturday, Nanjing Atrocities and “Comfort Women”: Teaching WWII in East Asia, was a resounding success. Thanks to all participants who shared their insightful comments, questions, and zeal for adding another layer of social justice into their teaching.
Thank you especially to Christina Tang and Faye Kwan for the inspiring presentations on the “comfort women” system and the useful and usable lesson plans, in spite of their busy schedule.
Thank you, Brian Fong from Facing History and Ourselves, for organizing another great workshop and for the clear and information-packed presentation! Thank you Nga for replenishing our energy with a wholesome breakfast and lunch.
Thank you, Alliance for Preserving the Truth of Sino-Japanese War (APTSJW), for providing additional resources and the space for the workshop. The tea and pineapple cake served during the break and lunch were delicious!
It was a long day passed by so quickly with educators and partners.
Many thanks to everyone,
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,
ESJF co-founders were honored to attend a press conference and award ceremony where Julie Soo, co-chair of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (SFCAHT) and a member of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women, received the SFCAHT Inspiring Leadership Award for her extraordinary contribution to the local movement toward the eradication of human trafficking. Soo organized a conference in 2015 on labor trafficking -- often overlooked relative to sex trafficking -- and involved law enforcement, social workers, health care providers, policymakers, and prosecutors. She has been incredibly supportive of installing a memorial in honor of “comfort women” and educating the public about their often misrepresented history. She said, “Only through remembering history and engaging global partners can we understand how to better prevent the failings of our collective existence.”
Second photo credit: Carol Sacco
On December 28, 2018, Jechun City from the North Choongchung Province in South Korea and San Pedro City put their efforts together to install the “Peace Girl” Statue at a private retirement home called Mary Mother of Mercy Home, a shelter for the elderly and abandoned at Barangay San Antonio in San Pedro, the Philippines. The installation of this statue was proposed by the San Pedro Mayor Lourdes Cataquiz, who saw the replica of the “Peace Girl” Statue in Jechun on his visit to the city in September 2018. The unveiling ceremony at the retirement home was called Unveiling of the Monument of Peace and Women Empowerment. A day after the installation, the sculptors, Seo-kyung Kim and Eun-sung Kim, already expressed concern about Japanese government interference.
Two days after the installation, on December 30, the Japanese Embassy issued a statement expressing disappointment over the statue: “We believe that the establishment of a ‘comfort woman’ statue in other countries, including this case, is extremely disappointing, not compatible with the Japanese government.”
Later that day, the statue was removed.
This is the second time a “comfort women” statue was removed in the Philippines. On April 27th, 2018, in the middle of night, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) removed the first statue, which was installed on December 8, 2017 by the city government of Manila, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, grassroots organizations, and local residents in Manila. Japan holds major economic influence in the country.
At the 1,365th Wednesday Rally, Congressman Mike Honda held the banner right next to the Peace Statue in front of the Japanese embassy. The banner reads, “Abe, apologize to ‘comfort women!’” Much appreciation goes to Mike and the Korean Council.
Photo credit: the Korean Council.