A South Korean organization that helps women who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for some of its financial dealings, in another twist to the long and painful saga of the so-called “comfort women.”
One of the few remaining survivors of this wartime slavery, 91-year-old Lee Yong-soo, accused the organization of using the survivors and their stories to collect public donations but spending the money on things that don’t actually benefit the victims.
Lee presented no evidence against the group, known as the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. But her remarks served to reopen an old war wound that still mars relations between South Korea and Japan.
They also triggered investigations into the Korean Council by news sites, one of which reported that the organization purchased a two-story house in 2013 for well above market price. The house has since been sold at about half the purchase price.
The Korean Council has admitted to “accounting errors” but has denied allegations of embezzlement and misappropriation.
“We believed that the Korean Council represented the victims’ position. However, Ms. Lee’s comments made it clear that it is not the case. Now we are not sure what to believe and what we must do to solve the historical problem,” Choi Eunmi, an associate research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told Foreign Policy.
She said the ordeal could make it more difficult for South Korea to negotiate a long-delayed settlement to the sexual slavery issue with Japan.
The two countries reached a tentative agreement in 2015, calling on Japan to pay 1 billion yen (around $9.3 million), issue a formal apology from Japan’s prime minister, and accept “deep responsibility” for the issue. The deal heralded a new era in relations between South Korea and Japan.
But it fell through after South Korean President Park Geun-hye was ousted. The current president, Moon Jae-in, has rejected the terms, saying the negotiations were conducted without input from the victims and the Korean public.
Precisely how much negotiating is underway at this moment is unclear. Last year, the speaker of South Korea’s parliament suggested a solution that involved collecting donations from both countries that would go to the victims of sexual slavery and forced labor. But the proposal drew public criticism and is unlikely to pass when the parliament reconvenes in June.
Some in Japan have portrayed South Korea as too heavily focused on the financial aspects of any possible deal. The scandal surrounding the Korean Council could sharpen that perception.
https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/29/so ... ort-women/
Yoon Mee-hyang, a leading activist for wartime sex slave victims in South Korea, recently won a parliamentary seat and is under pressure to resign. Public donations intended for the victims were not spent transparently and victims were exploited over the past 30 years by the group Yoon led. Yoon bought a mansion for $200,000 by misappropriating the comfort women fund and she spent over $1 million for personal use overall, including her daughter's tuition fees for an American college.
Lee Yong-su (91), who is one of the survivors exploited by the group, said that money donated to the council has “not been spent” for the survivors as promised. “I have been taken advantage of by (the group),” Lee said at a news conference. She also urged the organization to cancel its weekly protest rally, which has been held every Wednesday near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul since 1992, because it “does harm young people.” The Korean Council has opposed the Asian Women’s Fund that the Japanese government established in 1995 to send money to former comfort women. The advocacy group is blamed for ‘keeping problems alive' to pursue its financial interests.
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