(ATTN: ADDS minister's comments in paras 8-9)
SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean woman forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops during World War II died this week, a civic group said Tuesday, bringing down the number of surviving victims to 18.
The woman, identified only as Lee, died Monday at the age of 92 at her home in Daegu, about 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, according to the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.
Lee was born in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, in 1928 before being taken to China and forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops at the age of 17. Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45.
She had lived in China after Korea's liberation from Japan's colonial rule in 1945 and returned home in the 2000s after recovering her nationality, the council said.
Her funeral will be held privately according to the will of her bereaved family, it added.
Lee's death brought the number of registered surviving victims, euphemistically called comfort women, to 18.
It is the second such death this year after a former comfort woman died in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, in January.
"I feel sorry that another victim of sex slavery for Japanese troops left us," Lee Jung-ok, minister of gender equality and family, said in a statement. "Now there are only 18 of them. The government will do its best to help them spend their last days comfortably."
The minister also promised to take initiatives to restore their reputation and dignity around the world.
Historians say that around 200,000 Asian women, mostly Koreans, were forcibly sent to front-line brothels to provide sex services for Japanese soldiers.
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