Kim Sam, the representative of the Flyhighpeace Network, was given an 18 months’ sentence for protesting against the “comfort women” settlement issue. On March 26, Kim was accused of violating the law on assembly and demonstration and was demanded an actual prison sentence. Kim was also on trial three more times for protests associated with the standardization of the history textbook and the farmer conference.
Kim’s situation was alerted to the public through a YouTube channel, where she talked about the prosecutions and her reactions. According to Kim, she was tried on charges of committing four crimes: holding a hit-and-run protest in front of the Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-shin to show her disapproval of the government’s decision to standardize history textbooks, going to the Japanese embassy to save the Statue of Peace, for associating a sit-in protest and speaking in a press conference regarding South Korea-Japan
“Comfort Women” Agreement, and for participating in the farmer conference.
Despite Kim’s status as a student, the court handed down a verdicts and sentences instead of monetary penalties. Kim was accused of violating a Korean law defining lawful assemblies and also the traffic law during the press conference and sit-in protest. Although public opinions argue that the court’s decision is too harsh, Kim has shown a comparatively composed reaction.
“The government and the jury seem to be harsh especially on me because I was the representative of the network that seemed to ignite instigations among citizens,” Kim said in an interview with commentator Jung Kwan-yong. “The government apparently wants to halt students’ demonstrations to achieve a peaceful justification on the political and historical agreements.”
The reason behind Kim’s brave actions was to inform everyone about the “truth.” Despite her comparatively young age, she felt a sense of responsibillity toward letting others know about the unfairness and irrationality of the agreement between Korea and Japan regarding “comfort women.”
On Dec. 28, 2015, Korea and Japan implemented a deal on the “comfort women” issue after Japan provided a billion yen to the Foundation for Reconciliation and Healing. The victims of sex slavery during the Japanese colonial era and their families were also promised amounts of money according to the deal by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, disputes rose with controversy asserting that the deal concealed the pain of the victims with mere money.
Kim reported that she does not regret her actions but that it is hard to deny the drastic change in her everyday life. Instead of heading to school for class, she has submitted an application for a leave due to the time spent in court. Moreover, the shocking result of imprisonment as well as demonstrations in the harsh cold has resulted in the deterioration of both her physical and mental health.
Still, Kim stands strong to tell the public about the Korean Ministry’s disappointing reaction about the “comfort women” issue. As undergraduate students, it is difficult for Kim and her colleagues to stand against the governments’ decisions. Even though it is not refutable that the agreement between Korea and Japan severely lacks justification and legitimacy, the realistic problem of Kim’s indictment is that it may lead to self-censorship in people.
In this context, Kim has made numerous efforts to speak up successfully on various social issues. Her endeavors are critical in solving the complicated diplomatic issues that require endless attention from the citizens. Her actions have contributed in publicizing the past wrongdoings of the Japanese army and gaining support for the regaining of impaired reputations of the victims.
The public’s reactions toward Kim are mostly encouraging comments and praises. On March 8, Park Won-soon, the mayor of Seoul also publicly comforted her through Facebook.
“Don’t feel small and be bold in the courts. Don't be afraid to bring change to this issue. Be strong since you are fixing what is wrong. Always remember that many are cheering for you.”
Kim Bok-dong, a “comfort woman” victim, also met up with Kim and offered her warming words.
“If I had known that this fight with the government would take such a long time, I would not have spoken,” Kim said.
Many university students are delivering thankful messages toward Kim as well.
“All Korean collegians are supporting your brave action,” said Chon Hye-min, a freshman majoring in Social Welfare at Ewha.
“I strongly respect and support her courage to protest,” said Jin Hyung-park, freshman majoring in International Studies at Kyunghee University, who himself held a one-person protest in front of the Constitutional Court and spoke of the declaration of the state of affairs. “This endless endeavor to negate the Korea-Japan agreement is important to truly resolve the ‘comfort women’ problem. I hope she overcomes the hardships well, and keeps her interest on this problem.”
Along with the many supportive cheers and comments via online and around, the respect and applause toward Kim seems to continue.