South Korea was a Japan colonial, based on the fact that it is a neighboring country. Therefore the story of comfort women was also witnessed in this territory. There were a couple of women that ended up being comfort women during the World War 2 period. Many women were silent about what they had experienced for the fear of being judged, they felt embarrassed, and others thought that it was their fault. They felt strengthened after other women came out to talk about their experience. In South Korea, several years down the line the women came together and therefore, one after the other started to rise up to share their experiences as Korean comfort women. A step that encouraged the other women who had suffered the same plight to feel strengthened. Unity is a strength! This kind of unity brought healing and justice.
Kimiko Kaneda was one of the women who stood up in South Korea and decided to share her story with the world. She was courageous enough as she did it for the sake of the rest of her fellow women who had gone but through same. Kimiko was born of a Japanese mother and a Korean father. The father was a clerk with a rice mill but later decided to be a priest as he enrolled in a theological college. The father was seen as a rebel by the fact that he was a Christian he, therefore, started living in hiding. As the Japanese saw this as a disrespect of the Japanese shrines, the father was arrested.
She then went to Seoul to look for employment being recommended by her friend. From Seoul, she moved to Tianjin then to Zaoqing passing via Peitan. This was the genesis of her being a comfort woman in Korea. She later moved to Shijiazhuang and was depressed and for the quest to forget her pains, Kimiko became an opium addict.
Kimiko explains her plight while in the hands of the Japanese military as a comfort woman. She explains that in China, in a particular morning, she took a ride on a train and the train stopped at Shanhaiguan. She then tried to escape, unfortunately, the exits were all blocked by the military police. Kimiko spent a night in the train and they arrived Tianjin the next day. They were then moved to a truck, a coach and a jeep and they were taken to Peitan. In Peitan Kimiko and the other girls that were taken in as comfort women were taken to a house which there was a garrison of a Japanese regiment just near it. That night they were grouped and taken to different stations, Kimiko was taken to a dining room and made to sit on the floor. During that night Kimiko resisted the soldiers that came in and she was stabbed in the chest. She was then taken to the infirmary by the military police as she was soaked with blood and hurt. Kimiko stayed at the infirmary for twenty days for treatment. She was then moved to another unit using a horse cart drawn, the unit was a few hours for. This was when she realized that the only way she would survive is through submission. At the instigation of Chinese military employees, she would smoke up opium only to make her life bearable. Kimiko smokes opium with tobacco and found that it relieved her distress and fear. She was kept in Shanhaiguan for almost a year.
Kimiko was also involved in caring for the injured soldiers. They wiped the lips with a cloth soaked in alcohol and gave them an injection to induce sleep. She explained that before a soldier died they would look at their mother’s pictures and say that if they may die they should meet at the yasukuni shrine. She thought that the Yasukuni shrine was a peaceful place although the military soldiers covered it with their acts.
Kimiko was moved to different places for a number of times spending a year in Northern China. She mainly did the laundry, cleaning, and nursing during the day and serviced the soldiers during the night. The military had a system that fees that made her afford the buying of opium, and the meals were the same as for the troops. One day, Kimiko suffered from a venereal disease in which she was required to be given an injection of salvarsan which was dictated from her ear swelling. She suffered a prolapse of the uterus in 1944 and was a Korean officer found sympathy on her and decided to take her back to Korea for opium detoxification. The Korean officer was in charge of the Yanagi unit in which it was easy for him to obtain a kempeitai permission for Kimiko’s return to Korea. Her health was so bad such that she needed tranquilizers to sleep.
Because of such stories, the Government were to take full charge of such women. Most Comfort women ended up dying alone as their health would not allow them to get married or have children. For instance in Kimiko’s story, she was forced to go for an operation after the war and this caused her her womb. In January 1997, Kimiko Kaneda became one of the recipients of the atonement project of the Asian Women Fund in South Korea.
The atonement project in South Korea involved:
- the payment of 2million yen to each comfort woman
- The provision of welfare and medical support projects which was valued at 3million yen
- The delivery of the Japanese Prime Minister’s letter: the letters entailed apologies
In December 1996, Kimiko Kaneda announced that she appreciates the funds’ efforts. She intended to accept the benefits of the funding project. Although she was pressured to refuse this funding project, she was backed up by other victims to accept the funding project. Kimiko and other former Korean comfort women were later given letters from the Prime minister at a hotel in Seoul. Even though there was pressure from different points, the Asian women’s funding projects were concluded in the Republic of Korea and a good number of former comfort women are benefitting from it each passing day.