Digging into suspicionsIn a shameful development, prosecutors have kicked off an investigation of Yoon Mee-hyang, a lawmaker-elect from the Citizen Party, a satellite party of the ruling Democratic Party, and former head of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group aimed at helping former wartime sex slaves. She has been involved in an alleged misuse of public donations. If proven true, that charge constitutes a serious moral lapse and clear violation of the law.
Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Yoon was engaged in embezzlement and a breach of trust. Nevertheless, she refuses to make clear how she spent certain money. The prosecution’s probe into such allegations translates into a blot on the integrity of civic groups across the country. It all started with Yoon herself.
The suspicions are threefold. The first is whether she embezzled public donations and government subsidies for the council. Due to its crude accounting system, it is difficult to find out where and how the money was spent. The civic group attributes a lot to simple mistakes in accounting. Yet it does not reveal the details of its expenditures in the past. The second question is whether Yoon used the donations for private purposes after collecting them through her own bank accounts. The third question relates to the purchase and sale of a house the civic group bought to allegedly help the survivors spend time peacefully. A predecessor of the civic group had purchased the house for 850 million won ($689,000) seven years ago and recently sold it for 430 million won.
It is easy for investigators and accounting experts to affirm how and where the money was spent. If they trace the flow of the money, they can check the details of any transactions between Yoon and her friends. The prosecution has a number of financial experts who know how to dig out various types of slush funds in the public or private sectors. If the top law enforcement agency displays a determination to get to the bottom of all the suspicions, it can reach a conclusion sooner or later.
In the meantime, vital clues to the mounting suspicions about Yoon are disappearing one after another. Not to mention a number of online postings removed recently, her own bank accounts also have been closed, which points to the possibility of concealment of evidence after possibly colluding with her friends. The prosecution certainly knows that the success of its investigation of the case depends on obtaining evidence in the initial stages.
Hwang Hee-seok, another lawmaker-elect and former senior official at the Ministry of Justice, warned the prosecution not to take a “political approach” to the case. The government and ruling Democratic Party must stop trying to obstruct or block the prosecution’s investigations. Prosecutors must dig into the suspicions according to the law so as not to be stigmatized as a law enforcement body that is easily swayed by outside forces.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 19, Page 30
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