Blue House suspected in orchestrating civic group’s rallies

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Blue House suspected in orchestrating civic group’s rallies

A spokesman for the president on Monday condemned the news magazine Sisa Press for stating that the Blue House had requested a conservative civic group to host rallies supporting the Park Geun-hye administration’s settlement with Japan on the so-called comfort women issue.

In its report on Wednesday, Sisa Press said a Blue House official asked the Korea Parent Federation to host the rallies. It quoted the federation’s secretary general, Choo Sun-hee, as saying that the presidential aide sent a text message to Choo on Jan. 4 and requested the group host a rally supporting the Korean and Japanese foreign ministers’ agreement promising an apology from Tokyo and a multimillion-dollar fund for Korean women forced into Japanese military brothels during World War II, euphemistically referred to as comfort women issue.

The presidential aide asked for 50 million won ($43,500) in compensation, for Sisa’s claims that the Blue House orchestrated a series of right-wing civic rallies.

The Korea Parent Federation, a conservative right-wing civic group, received media attention this month for reporting that it paid some 1,200 North Korean defectors to openly oppose the passage of special bills related to the Sewol ferry sinking. Sisa Press then reported that the funds were traced back to the Korean National Police Veterans Association and to several ghost organizations. But traces to the group’s patrons do not end there.

In an exclusive report, JTBC uncovered 120 million won of funding sent from the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) to the Korea Parent Federation from September to December of 2014.

But when the JoongAng Ilbo additionally interviewed Choo, the Korea Parent Federation’s secretary general, and asked him if the total amount of the funds that the group received from the FKI equaled 200 or 300 million won, he answered, “More than that.”

“We received around 25 to 30 million won per month from the FKI,” he added, “through the Bethel Mission Welfare Foundation.”

The Bethel Mission Welfare Foundation is a ghost organization that ceased to exist in 2005.

If true, the total amount of funds the Korea Parent Federation received from the FKI would be worth more than 300 million won.

But when asked to confirm this, Choo answered that the FKI funds were received for about six months, making the total some 120 million won.

“I cannot confirm that amount,” said Kwon Hyuk-min, head of the FKI public relations department when asked about the total amount of funds.

“We used those funds to provide local senior adults with free meals, as well as to provide North Korean defector protestors their traffic stipends,” Choo said.

Yet when asked what kind of free meals the group provided, Choo said, “We had instant noodles ready for them on the second floor of our office building.”

Choo also admitted that he communicated with the FKI directly.

“I spoke with the FKI’s researcher, surnamed Ahn, regarding the funds,” he said. Ahn refused to answer to whether he had known that the FKI’s funds were being used by the Korea Parent Federation.

“The FKI probably did not know that its funds to the Bethel Mission Welfare Foundation were being used by the Korea Parent Federation,” Choo said in a press conference on Friday.

“I oversaw the financial transactions of the funds,” Choo said, “using the bankbook that I received from the wife of the chairman of the Bethel Mission Welfare Foundation.”

BY JEONG JIN-WOO, SHIN YONG-HO [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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