In May, former comfort woman turned activist Lee Yong-soo went public with accusations against Yoon Mee-hyang, the former head of The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance, South Koreans, to the dismay of the South Koreans. The 92-year-old was a regular fixture in rallying for the rights of fellow former comfort women, showing up on the streets every Wednesday to make her voice heard.
However, Lee Yong-soo decided to put a stop to her campaigning and announced in a press conference held on May 8 that she would no longer take part in the rallies held by the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. Furthermore, Lee stated that the rallies must stop altogether, stating that the Council’s efforts are only resulting in more strife. Instead, she says that both parties should work towards unity and reconciliation.
“Students spend their own precious money and time to attend these rallies, but the rallies only teach hatred and suffering. Korean and Japanese youths with historically accurate education must befriend each other and communicate with each other to solve problems,” she said.
With regard to the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance, Lee dropped a bombshell which has since then rocked the nation. The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance is an organization founded in 1990 with the goal of seeking justice and recompense for individuals who served as comfort women in World War II. The Council takes on donations from both the private and public sectors, and is supposed to use these funds to provide direct assistance to former comfort women in South Korea.
According to Lee, however, the Council has not been doing its job properly. She said, “The comfort women who belong to the Council are considered as victims and are cared for by the Council, but those who do not belong to the Council are not cared for. I have been deceived and exploited for the last 30 years.”
She pinpoints Yoon Mee-hyang, the Council’s leader for decades, as using the Council’s funds for personal gain. Yoon allegedly dipped into the funds meant for comfort women and used them to buy personal property and to pay for her daughter’s education in the United States. She is said to have accepted and kept donations for the Council in her personal bank accounts.
Yoon has denied these claims, going public on her Facebook page with a lengthy rejoinder. In it, she states that the Council had done its job properly, distributing the funds accumulated to the intended recipients. She also dismissed Lee’s allegations, saying that the former comfort woman had faulty memory and that she was too old to remember properly.
The former head of the Council is now an elected lawmaker and a member of the country’s ruling political party, making things complicated for the South Korean government.
Lee Hae-chan, the Democratic Party Chairman, was quick to make a statement, albeit quite an equivocal one.
He said, “If there was a mistake, it should be fixed and the person who is responsible for it should take responsibility. But those actions should be based on facts. (She) can’t succumb to suspicions (that) stemmed from doxxing.”
The Supreme Prosecutor’s Office has been tasked by the Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol to conduct an investigation into the allegations of embezzlement and financial fraud. He emphasized the fact that the Council has received funds from the government in the form of subsidies. If it is proven that Yoon Mee-hyang has indeed used funds for personal gain, then it basically translates to a current government official embezzling from her own government. And the South Korean comfort women continue to be the victims.
The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance has issued its own statement regarding the issue. They say that they “never loosely used money”, but they did admit to “accounting flaws”, for which they apologized. The Council has also asked for an independent audit to deal with these “accounting flaws”.
More than a month after Lee Yong-soo went public and calls to investigate Yoon Mee-hyang were made, there are no new developments regarding the case. It seems that while the comfort women and their families continue to cry out for justice and other lawmakers have been calling for her resignation, the erstwhile leader of the group might get away with barely a slap on the wrist – if that.