Kim Sun-deok

Kim Sun-deok (1921 – 2004)
born in Uiryeong, Gyeongsang-do, South Korea


© Tsukasa Yajima

In 1937, the year she turned seventeen, her life as a Japanese military sexual slavery in Shanghai started after being deceived by an announcement for recruiting nurses. Later, she was moved to Nanking, and in 1940 she was able to return to Korea with the help of a Japanese officer. 

In 1991, she saw Kim Haksun on television, the first woman to give public testimony in South Korea about her experience as a military sexual slave of Japan.  After making a public declaration of her past, she moved in to the House of Sharing in October of 1992.  She painted “Unblossomed Flower,” a painting that became a symbol of the movement on behalf of the victims of Japanese military sexual slavery.  She was not deterred by her old age and was always in motion, working hard and keeping a busy schedule, and so she played the role of leader among the women at the House of Sharing.  She participated in the Wednesday demonstration out front of the Japanese embassy without fail.  She did not neglect her farmwork.  She industriously worked on her paintings when she had time. 

As a young girl she aspired to be a traditional entertainer and went to an arts school for future female entertainers, and so she often spoke with pride of her skill at speaking and at all manner of songs.  So her “Ballad of the Traveling Entertainer” was captivatingly beautiful, and she managed to seem like she sang with you in mind.  In her song Kim Sundeok tells us that “I want to live for a trillion years!”; but on Wednesday, June 30, 2004, the day of her unflagging weekly journey to Seoul to protest, Kim Sundeok passed away.

Traveling Entertainer – Taryeong
(Minyo – Korean folksong)

© Joshua D. Pilzer

Oh, we’ve got to have fun while we can.

August fifteenth was our land’s liberation day
Every house flew the flag; on every street people shouting “ten thousand years, hooray!
Hooray, hooray! Hooray for independence, our land is free!
Don’t trust the Americans or be suckered by the Soviets;
Hasten the reunion of our North and South, build up our land— I want to live for a trillion years!”

“I want to live for a trillion years!”

Oh, we’ve got to have fun while we can.

On a motionless night, while everyone else is asleep, only I sit up alone.
Things that have happened in the past spread out before me, and today I think of my grief.
A giant thing higher than the mountains; beyond the waters, a great sea.

“You didn’t understand any of that, did you…!?!”