Kim Bok-dong (left) and Kil Won-ok attend a rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on May 29. (Yonhap News)
Koreans donate to women victimized by sex crimes during Vietnam War
Two Korean former sex slaves during the Japanese colonial era are raising funds to support other victims of wartime sexual violence around the world.
The so-called Butterfly Fund was formed by 87-year-old Kim Bok-dong and 84-year-old Kil Won-ok to support female victims of the Vietnam War and civil wars in Africa, the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan said Monday.
The fund sent $6,000 and $4,000 to 43-year-old Euguyen Ban Luang and 43-year-old Euguyen Ti Kim, respectively, last month. The sisters were victims of sexual violence committed during the Vietnam War. Their mother conceived them when she was raped by a Korean soldier.
When the Vietnam War broke out in 1965, former president Park Chung-hee sent more than 300,000 soldiers to support the U.S. military there. In regards to the suffering the deployment caused, former presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun made official apologies to Vietnam.
“The Vietnamese suffered the same pain as us. This is the first step to compensate them,” the group said.
Most Vietnamese women who were sexually violated by Korean soldiers during the war were unable to maintain a normal marriage, according to a field study conducted by the council. Their children also had lower levels of income and education.
“I experienced that pain. I know all too well how much suffering that causes,” said Kil Won-ok, who was forcibly taken by the Japanese invading army at the age of 13.
“I want to comfort women who went through the same ordeal as I did,” Kil said, explaining why she established Butterfly Fund.
Prior to receiving the fund, Luang worked as a day laborer catching shrimps. Now Luang can lease a plot of land for 30 years to farm. Kim, who lives in Hanoi, will rent a building to run a store.
Originally, the Butterfly Fund was to use financial compensation from Japan, but the Japanese government refused to provide any compensation for the wartime atrocities it committed against women during World War II. Singer Lee Hyori donated 5 million won ($4,420) as the fund’s first campaigner, and 300 organizations joined in the effort to amass over 70 million won.
“Our ladies dream of a peaceful world,” said a spokesperson of the council. “We will see to it that the funds are given to those who need them the most.”
By Lee Sang-ju