Clear snowballing suspicions

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Clear snowballing suspicions

Suspicions over the alleged misuse of donations for the Korean Council for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan are snowballing. 
 
Yet, Yoon Mee-hyang, a lawmaker-elect and former chairwoman of the Korean Council, is engrossed with making ludicrous excuses after branding attacks on her as “political offensives and conspiracy.”
 
The controversy over the alleged misuse of donations continued throughout the civic group’s weekly rally on Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul after circumstantial evidence suggested that she had used her own bank accounts instead of the eight corporate accounts of the civic group to receive donations from the public.
 
It was found that she had used at least three private bank accounts since 2016, when the civic group changed its corporate name. One of them was an account she created to collect donations online to cover the funeral expenses of Kim Bok-dong, a former victim of Japan’s wartime slavery, after she passed away last year.  
 
The act of receiving public donations through private accounts instead of corporate accounts is strictly banned by the law, regardless of how the donations are spent.
 
Mounting suspicions are just the tip of the iceberg. The Korean Council professed that it had offered 470 million won ($383,800) to a victim in 2018, but the amount is more than the total expenses of the civic group that year. 
 
The group also says it spent 11.7 million won on funeral services for victims in 2018, but its regular funeral service provider says it never received money from the group.
 
Another criticism involves related government ministries’ poor oversight of the civic group and its former head Yoon. 
 
For instance, she created another fund aimed at offering scholarships to the underprivileged after collecting public donations on her own account after the death of Kim Bok-dong, but the fund was not even registered in the list of the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.
 
The ministry hurriedly sent a request to the civic group to submit the details of how it collected donations and spent them by May 22.
 
The National Tax Service also belatedly ordered the group to correct its accounting errors after affirming them. The National Human Rights Commission is no exception. It is under fire for its negligence in monitoring the civic group.
 
All the suspicions were raised last Thursday by Lee Yong-soo, a 91-year-old former wartime sex slave. Therefore, it is not right for Yoon to attack her opponents for “conspiring to damage the decades-old reputation” of the group. If she is really free of any guilt, she can go through thorough investigations by the police and prosecutors. 
 
In a press conference earlier this week, Yoon denounced her opponents for “trying to destroy the morality of a movement to protect human rights of the victims.” 
 
That is sheer nonsense. A civic group on a crusade against the distortion of history by Japanese right-wing forces must demonstrate integrity and transparency above anything else.  
 
JoongAng Ilbo, May 14, Page 30 

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