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Victims absent from S Korea's 'comfort women' rally amid graft allegations over ex-leader

By Hyonhee Shin

South Korean victims of Japanese wartime sexual violence boycotted a weekly protest in Seoul on Wednesday after a former leader of the group organizing the rally was accused of misusing funds meant for victims.

Yoon Mi-hyang recently stepped down as longtime leader of the group to contest the national election and won a seat in parliament. She is under investigation by Seoul prosecutors over allegations she used government subsidies for her own benefit, not to help the "comfort women" - a euphemism for those forced to work in Japan's wartime brothels.

Dozens of young students still attended the regular protest outside the Japanese embassy, but Lee Yong-soo, a prominent victim and activist, along with other elderly victims who also sometimes attend, were absent.

Lee this month publicly accused Yoon of politically and financially exploiting victims to garner government funds and public donations through the protests while spending little money on them.

Lee, 92, vowed to quit the rallies, held almost every Wednesday since 1992, and demanded Yoon not be made a lawmaker.

"The Wednesday demonstration should end," Yonhap news agency quoted Lee saying. "We don't even know how and where money comes from anyway, but the donations should be used for us, but they never have."

Several calls to Lee and Yoon seeking comment went unanswered.

On social media, Yoon has said she properly managed the budget of the group, the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, and Lee's memory appears to have faded.

The investigation into Yoon include allegations she embezzled funds for personal use and inflicted losses by buying and selling a property meant to shelter victims.

The group, better known as Jungdaehyup, is also being investigated. Jungdaehyup said on Wednesday it has "never loosely used money" but apologized for "accounting flaws" for which it has requested an independent audit.

"We might have made some errors because of workforce shortages, but there can never be accounting fraud," Han Kook-yeom, one of the group's founders, told the rally.

The feud threatens to undermine the wartime sexual violence movement, led for decades by Yoon, Lee and Jungdaehyup, which together played a key role in effectively nullifying a controversial 2015 settlement with Japan.

The scandal is also a setback for President Moon Jae-in, whose relations with Tokyo turned sour after he declared the 2015 deal flawed.

"The dispute could hurt the legitimacy and morality of the group which has long enjoyed public trust for supporting the victims," said Shin Beom-chul, director of the Centre for Diplomacy and Security at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul.

"It might also provide a fresh source of friction with Japan that complicates future negotiations."

As the group held its 1,440th weekly protest, a dozen other activists staging their own rally nearby booed and jeered, with one chanting "Give the money back to the grandmas."

Lee Na-young, who now leads Jungdaehyup, pledged to regain public trust.

"We should not let the history and cause of this movement, which contributed to making wartime sexual violence a universal issue of human rights, suffer a crushing collapse," she shouted.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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It's about time that the surviving Comfort Women recognized and said "no more" to these organizations that have made a living out of selling their suffering. Hope the women turn on the Chongdaehyup as well, as they pressured CW from accepting monies from Japan, coached them for press interviews and have effectively controlled South Korea's relations with Japan through manipulation of public sentiment. The money that Japan has paid in accordance with the 2015 Comfort Women Agreement has still not reached the women.

14 ( +20 / -6 )

The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan support for these pensioners, has never amounted to more than to advance a political agenda.

A cynical, also my I suggest a criminal act. These frail pensioners deserve to be compensated. I have never denied their pain and suffering is war crime.

Yoon Mi-hyang, politically weaponized the brutality inflicted on the victims, to further a poisonous agenda of hatred and loathing aimed primarily at modern day Japan/people.

A deliberate policy/campaign strategy of personal attacks. Combined with the proliferation of retribution over reconciliation,publicly wheeling out wheelchair bound frailty, in the latter stages of lives, for the sole purpose to fan belligerent discontent.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Notice how Koreans punish people for corruption though

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Out of all the money that has been sent, since the first agreement, reached the victims ?

Where has that money gone ?

STOP using these victims in political games.

Release the previous payments sent by Japan to them, as they are nearing the end of their lives and have already suffered so much during WW2 and since.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

"The Wednesday demonstration should end," Yonhap news agency quoted Lee saying. "We don't even know how and where money comes from anyway, but the donations should be used for us, but they never have."

The issue of justice for the women aside, I hope this organization withers and dies like Sea Shepard did.


12 ( +14 / -2 )

Are Korean politicians more corrupt than those in other countries, or are the Korean press better at finding and calling out the corruption?

As for funds not going to those for whom they are intended, I remember reading an article over a decade ago that said that the funds negotiated by the Korean government to go from the Japanese government to comfort women did not, for the most part, go to the victims. Why not?

12 ( +13 / -1 )

No kidding they weren't there; this isn't about them. It's about Korea trying to stick it to Japan in a childish way and to extort money for corrupt politicians and faux concern groups.

Bunch of losers.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Let us remember that Japan's rustless imperialism is the root cause of nearly all of South Korea's problems. There would not be a "comfort women" issue right now if Japan had not enslaved thousands of young Korean women into sexual servitude.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

[Trick of comfort women fraud]

In May 2020, Lee Yong-soo, the most famous former Korean comfort woman who made a fake testimony at the U.S. Congress, and succeeded in bashing Japan, finally fell out with a long-time comrade Yoon Mee-hyang (Yun Mi-Hyang), a former leader of the comfort women support group, "Korean Council".

Then, Lee Yong-soo exposed the inside affairs of the Korean Council and Yoon Mee-hyang.

The cause is an ugly fight over the distribution of donations over the years.

Comfort women lie for pity, vanity, and money, and support groups lie for political purposes and money.

They have no resistance to lying for the sake of their profits.

As a result, Westerners who don't know that blindly believe what they say.

See the following chronological process of the comfort women fraud.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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