War-Time Rape

Former Korean “Comfort Women” – Women Forced to be Military Sexual Slaves

Unfortunately, there are a number of female survivors that have endured rape during wartime, or rape used as a tool of war. Two organizations in particular that I support provide services, shelter, education, and healthcare to survivors.

One organization I work closely with here in South Korea is the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. The female survivors, endearingly called “halmoni” (“grandmothers” in Korean), were taken from their homes on the Korean peninsula during the Asia Pacific War, when North and South Korea were a Japanese imperial colony. Starting in the Asia-Pacific War and continue throughout World War II, it is estimated that 200,000 young women and girls were taken and forced to serve as military sex slaves for Japanese soldiers. These girls were transported all over the Japanese colonies and to countries that Japan was fighting. Of the over 200,000 girls kidnapped, 80-90% of them were Korean. Although the wars ended years ago, the Japanese government never formally apologized to the survivors directly. In South Korea, there are only 60 survivors (as of October 2012). It is unknown how many survivors there are in North Korea.

Many of the halmoni I’ve met personally speak Chinese or Japanese, based on where they were taken. It’s quite difficult for me to understand their Korean as it is, but when they mix Chinese or Japanese words into their dialogue, I get really confused! The grandmothers are now all in their 80s and 90s. Every Wednesday without fail for the last 20 years, several of the halmoni sit in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, shouting their demands. These women are so inspiring. Although I cannot understand everything they say, I am truly touched by what I can understand. Their perseverance and unwavering determination makes them true heroines that I have been honored to get to know.





Two of the grandmothers–former “comfort women” saw a connection between what happened to them years ago and what happens now in countries wrought by war. The two grandmothers, Kim Bok-dong and Gil won-ok, established a fund called the Butterfly Fund and pledged to donate any (future) compensation they receive from the Japanese government to one outstanding organization based out of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  The organization was started by a brave, exceptional woman named Rebecca Masika Katsuva. “Mama Masika”–as she is called by those she helps–endured a brutal gang-rape after witnessing her husband be brutally murdered and his body dismembered. Masika, along with her two daughters, were raped shortly after the intruders killed her husband. As horrendous as this act is, it is estimated that 48 women are raped every hour in Eastern DRC.

Despite suffering physical and psychological injuries herself, Masika established a center to help other survivors of rape. What she does is truly remarkable: she finds survivors, offers them medical care, accommodation, food, an opportunity to work on a farm she started, and education. Her organization is run on inconsistent funding but stays operational, as she has found a way to keep it operating at low-cost. A little donation goes a long way for this rural yet necessary organization.

Because the grandmothers have not yet received their compensation from the Japanese government, the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (a non-profit organization that supports many former “comfort women” and puts on the weekly Wednesday protests) set up the Butterfly Fund. Butterfly Fund donations go to Masika to aid her in her efforts and to support survivors of war-time rape on the other side of the world. To donate to the Butterfly Fund, please visit: http://en.womenandwar.net/contents/general/generalView.asp?page_str_menu=0501.

To learn more about Masika, watch this documentary by Al Jazeera‘s Fiona Lloyd-Davies: http://watchdocumentary.com/watch/field-of-hope-video_92ea0dd7b.html

Or read Masika’s blog: http://masikarebeca.wordpress.com/


Rebecca Masika Katsuva puts Samuel in her lap and starts to sing a hymn. Clara, on her left, was found starving next to her raped and murdered mother when she was two years old.
Rebecca, who herself has been the victim of rape runs a shelter for raped and abused women outside the village of Minova.
(picture and info above provided by Paul Hansen, photojournalist)

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