Yoon must apologizeThe allegations around the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan are snowballing. Early speculations were mostly about the civic group’s questionable fund management. Donations and their spending didn’t match its reported accounts to the government, and aged victims had not been properly cared for.
Now, there are allegations about embezzlement as millions of dollars from the fund remain unaccounted for. The fund operating group is accused of having purchased a two-story residence as a resting retreat for survivors in Anseong, Gyeonggi in 2013 by paying 300 million won ($244,000) more than the market price at the time.
Yoon Mee-hyang, a former head of the council who has won a proportional legislative seat from a satellite party of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), stands at the center of the controversy. She also has not been able to clearly explain how she came to buy a suspicious apartment at around the same time.
The ruling party members who first came to her defense and attacked opponents as “pro-Japan forces” began to distance themselves. Yet some are still defending her. In a radio interview, Song Young-gil, a DP representative, shrugged off the criticism about Yoon paying her father 75.8 million won from the budget of the House of Sharing after hiring him as its superintendent for six years. “That six-year amount would only mean about 1.2 million won a month. We should pay minimum respect to a civilian activist who fought for the rights for victims for a long time,” Rep. Song said.
Noble work in the past cannot pardon the crime of embezzlement. The Korean Council formally apologized for recruiting a family member of Yoon to manage the shelter. But the money should not be deemed a small amount. Such a casual comment should not come from a major politician of the ruling party.
The council invited an outside audit. But it defended its use of public donations. Before auditors or investigators raid its office, Yoon must explain herself publicly. She can simply show the receipts and documents to prove her innocence. She could reveal the identity of the person who sold her the controversial Anseong residence at an even higher price than other houses in the area. If there were any misunderstandings or follies, she should admit to them and apologize. Only Yoon can undo the shame.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 20, Page 30