Weird counterattacksYoon Mi-hyang — a lawmaker-elect and former chairwoman of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan — is under attack for alleged abuse of power. She behaves as if she were former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, an icon of liberalism in Korea, who had to resign amid a corruption scandal involving his family.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) — a parent party of the Citizen Party, of which Yoon is a member — is fueling the controversy by branding her critics “pro-Japanese forces.” On Tuesday, the lawmaker-elect denounced her opponents for “trying to expose every part of [her] life” in a bid to attack her, blaming both the conservative media and the opposition United Future Party (UFP) for attacking her.
Rep. Kim Du-kwan, a DP lawmaker, has joined the battle by condemning the conservative media and UFP for “forming a joint front” to attack Yoon “after striking a humiliating deal with Japan in 2015 on compensation for wartime sexual slavery.” He is bent on transforming Yoon’s personal issues into political issues. That reminds us of the DP’s relentless campaign to transform the controversial former Justice Minister Cho into a victim by portraying the prosecution and the press as a part of so-called past evils.
Do the “pro-Japanese forces” really attack Yoon for political purposes? For starters, it was Lee Yong-soo, a 91-year-old former wartime sex slave, who blew the whistle on her power abuse as head of the Korean Council. “We don’t know anything about how the donations were spent,” she complained. “The council has never spent the money on us.” In fact, the civic group spent only 4.3 percent and 5.8 percent of its donations to help the victims in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Financial support for their funeral services took the largest share of the donations.
That contradicts the Corporate Tax Law, which stipulates public entities must make over 80 percent of their expenditures for their original purposes. What fuels our confusion is the council’s less-than-transparent accounting practices. It reported to the National Tax Service that it had spent 33.4 million won ($27,000) at beer pubs last year, but actually spent 9.7 million won and got back 5.4 million won from them as donations. The council also says it spent more than 11.7 million won for the victims’ funeral services, but a funeral service company tied to the civic group has not received any money from it for years.
Another controversy involves how Yoon was able to send her daughter to a school in the United States, though she paid only 6.4 million won in annual income tax over the last five years. In a press conference Monday, the council even wondered, “What civic groups really disclose the details of their spending?” The National Tax Service has ordered the council to fix the flaws in its accounting.
Rep. Yoon and the DP’s reactions are wrong. After attacking former sex slave Lee for “distorting her own memory,” they are denouncing critics as pro-Japanese forces. Prosecutors will discover the truth. But before that, lawmaker-elect Yoon must tell the truth if she does not want to damage her civic group.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 13, Page 30