SEOUL-- A South Korean woman forced into front-line brothels for Japanese troops during World War II died on Sunday, bringing the number of living victims of Japan's wartime atrocity to 37.
Kim Kun-ja died at the age of 91 at a shelter south of Seoul operated for former "comfort women," a euphemistic term for the victims of Japan's sexual slavery, according to officials at the shelter.
Born in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, Kim was forcefully mobilized by Japan to "comfort facilities" in China's northeastern province of Jilin at the age of 17. She tried to commit suicide seven times during her three years there.
She drew attention to the wartime crime by Japan by attending a hearing on comfort women hosted by then U.S. Congressman Mike Honda in February 2007 and testifying about her experience.
Most of the other survivors of the gross human rights abuse are in their 80s or 90s.
The comfort women issue has been a long-time thorn between South Korea and Japan, which occupied the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45.
Historians estimate that up to 200,000 Asian women, mostly from Korea, were mobilized by the Japanese military to work in front-line brothels.
In late 2015, the two neighbors reached a deal to resolve the issue with an apology and compensation from Tokyo. But some of the Korean victims have rejected the agreement, saying the apology is not sincere, nor is it enough to address their grievances.
High-ranking government officials expressed intention to pay tribute.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha who has said that the past compensation deal is not enough to reflect public sentiment here, paid her respects to the deceased at night.
"In this situation where the people emotionally cannot accept the deal as President Moon Jae-in clearly stated before, another victim passed away without getting a satisfying answer," Kang said. "The ministry is going to look more closely at the content of the agreement or the progress of the negotiations, and find a way to go based on the results."
Source: Yonhap News Agency