Jonathan H. Kim, or Kim Han-il, center, president of Jin Duck and Kyung Sik Kim Foundation, poses with his sisters who are running the foundation together with him, in front of a memorial for sex slavery set up in San Francisco in this Sept. 20, 2017, file photo. From left are Kim Soon-ok, Kim Han-il and Kim Soon-ran. Courtesy of Jin Duck and Kyung Sik Foundation
By Jung Da-minDays ahead of Aug. 14 when South Korea marked the 30th anniversary of the day the first South Korean woman publicly spoke about her experiences as a “comfort woman” of the Japanese military during colonial Japan’s belligerent expansionist period in the early part of the 20th century, banners promoting the historical truth of Japan’s wartime sex slavery were installed in downtown San Francisco. Comfort women is a loose translation of a Japanese euphemism for women who provided sex for members of the Imperial Japanese Army.The banners and placards at 24 spots in downtown San Francisco were installed by members of the Jin Duck and Kyung Sik Kim Foundation, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization established to support the Korean community, and will be posted for one year.Jonathan H. Kim or Kim Han-il, president of Jin Duck and Kyung Sik Kim Foundation said it was six years ago when he first met Lee Yong-soo, a surviving victim of Japan’s wartime sex slavery. Kim said his meeting with Lee changed his perspective regarding how to deal with the painful history of sex slavery. “Honestly speaking, I and many other Korean Americans who were in their 50s or 60s believed that talking about the painful history of comfort women was not a good idea as we thought it would only reveal the shameful history of Korea being weak and losing its sovereignty under Japanese colonial rule,” Kim said during a recent video interview with The Korea Times.Lee came to San Francisco in September 2015 to testify at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors subcommittee meeting to persuade the city’s legislative branch to pass a resolution urging the creation of a memorial in the city for the sex slaves. Kim treated Lee to a meal, during which he asked her why she was engaged in campaigns to inform people about the comfort women issue.”Lee told me that although the history of comfort women is a painful one, she is more worried about people forgetting about it when it needs to be remembered by more people so that history will not be repeated,” Kim said. The resolution was unanimously passed by at the subcommittee meeting after hours of Lee’s testimony, but Lee came to the city after four months to ask the Korean American community to help raise funds needed for the creation of the memorial.
Banners promoting the historical truth of Japan’s wartime sex slavery, installed last week in downtown San Francisco by Jin Duck and Kyung Sik Foundation is seen in this Aug. 10, photo. Courtesy of Jin Duck and Kyung Sik Foundation
“I was still skeptical about letting more people know about the comfort women history even after my first meeting with Lee, but when she joined again to help with the fundraising, I was moved by her sincerity,” Kim said. “I and other members of the Korean American community in the city decided to support the fundraising and we first aimed to raise $100,000 (117 million won). It only took 10 days for us to raise a total of $140,000.”Kim said he especially felt grateful for the donations made by young and elderly members of the Korean community as he knew that they contributed saved money set aside for their education expenses or allowances they received.Since then, the Jin Duck and Kyung Sik Kim Foundation has helped with more rounds of fundraising for the creation of the memorial and started to promote the historical truth of wartime sex slavery through other activities or campaigns. The foundation also contributed to the establishment of a memorial monument to victims of sex slavery built in August 2019 on Mount Nam in central Seoul.Kim said he believes in the power of education and that his foundation will continue its activities to inform young people about the historical sex slavery issue and other Korea-related issues such as the territorial dispute over the country’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, which Japan also claims as its own. He said the foundation is also planning to offer history tour programs for young students in the U.S. and Korea once the COVID-19 situation gets better.As a part of efforts to help promote youth education, the foundation has recently donated 180 million won to the Seoul branch of the YWCA to create a cultural space that young students could use as a theater or for other activities.