Over four years ago, when I moved here to Korea, I would’ve never imagined that my heart would burn for the things it does now… this land, its people, its history, its stories.
A few months ago, I saw a post on social media of an interview with Kim Bok-dong 할머니 on Asian Boss. I paused before clicking the play button, in an attempt to prepare my heart for her story… but how can you ever really be ready to hear of such atrocities? Such pain and suffering? To have carried that weight by herself, to dedicate her life, every last bit of her energy to fight for justice. I was changed. I could not remain silent. And so I grappled, pondered, pored over words. How could I put onto paper the depths of agony, the heights of courage? I was at a loss. I gave up before I even started.
But last night, I found out that Kim Bok-dong 할머니 had passed on January 28, 2019.
Long before the #metoo movement, Kim Bok-dong revealed her story to the world in 1992 as one of the first “comfort women”. Since then, she fought tirelessly to bring justice to this issue, attending weekly Wednesday rallies and testifying around the world to receive a sincere apology from the Japanese government.
Activist, hero, fighter.
Brave, courageous, selfless.
The grandest and most monumental of words still seem too small in comparison to who she was, what she did. Words fail me now as they had months ago.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I thought we were having a girl. And the ways God was speaking to me in that season, the things that were burning on my heart, were often about gender inequality and injustice. I see it all around, here in Korea. But really, it’s everywhere, isn’t it? The subtle and the not-so-subtle, the microaggressions and the aggressions. It would overwhelm me. I would sit and pray, asking the Lord for wisdom to raise a daughter in this day and age. When we found out we were having a boy, I was left disillusioned….“Lord, what was all that? I thought I had been hearing from you.” Until it dawned on me… “Gender inequality” isn’t a “female” problem. Fighting injustice isn’t just on us women. It needs to be a joint effort.
Today, I promised myself I would do something. I sat and pored over articles about her life, her death, her legacy. I watched the movie, “I can speak” inspired by her life. I journaled, I prayed.
And so I promise to remember her story. I promise to share her story.
할머니의 용기와 끊임없는 희생과 헌신을 기억하겠습니다.
I promise to do my best to raise my son to be a fighter for justice, to stand up for what is right, but more than anything, I will teach him of your life, your story, your courage… You will not be forgotten.