First Publicized 'Comfort Woman' Dies After Prolonged Illness

May 4, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: May 4, 2007 12:00 am

Lei Guiying, the first comfort woman to go public with her story, died in the Jiangsu Chinese Medical Hospital on April 25. She was 79 years old. In her death note, Lei said the reason she told her story to the public was not for the money. Lei said she was seeking justice for her fellow comfort women who had suffered during the Japanese occupation in World War II.

According to reports filed by Chinese media such as the Jingbao website, Lei was born in 1928 in the village of Tangjia, Tangshan Town, Jiangning District of Nanjing City. She was first raped by a Japanese soldier when she was only 9 years old. At the age of 13, Lei was conned to a Japanese Army brothel in Gaotaipo, Tangshan Town. She lived a life of daily humiliation as a comfort woman for one and a half year until she escaped. During her captivity, Lei suffered inhuman treatment at the hands of the Japanese. Injuries suffered included the loss of her ability to have children. Lei had always said that she was one of the youngest girls at the brothel. Many girls as young as 17 or 18 years old had died after repeated rape by the Japanese. Some of the girls were killed brutally by the soldiers.

For more than 60 years, Lei did not say one word about what had happened to herself and the other comfort women under the Japanese occupation. Last April, she was persuaded by her adopted son, Tang Jiaguo, to publicize her bitter experience. Lei hoped to provide a living testimony to the monstrous crime the Japanese had committed in Nanjin during the war.

Scholar Says the CCP Has Remained Indifferent to Suffering

The CCP has remained indifferent to the continued suffering of Lei and other surviving comfort women. Wang Binyi, a historian who specializes in the study of comfort women, said that Lei's revelations have made important contributions toward better understanding what these women suffered. There are approximately 200 surviving comfort women.

“These women utterly detest what they have suffered and yet they choose to keep silent,” said Wang. He was very impressed by the courage of Lei to come forward and tell her story. Wang believes that if the CCP had provided Lei with assistance to help improve her living conditions, she could have lived longer than her 79 years.

“We are planning on something,” said Wang. He hopes the CCP will improve policies on how to aid comfort women and other survivors from the time of the Japanese occupation. Improved policies should be directed toward helping these survivors of a bitter period in Chinese history to live out their remaining years in comfort.

Lei was the last surviving comfort woman from Nanjin,” said Wu Xianbin, Director of the Nanjin Anti-Japanese War Museum. “When she died, Nanjin lost a significant witness for comfort woman history,” said Wu. He also mentioned that to maintain the historical materials properly, he would continue on recording and organizing interview materials from women like Lei. Wu plans to use the writings and videos to illustrate the history of comfort women to the world.