See the case through

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See the case through

 Charges have been raised about suspicious cash withdrawals from the bank account of Gil Won-ok, the sole surviving victim of sexual slavery by the imperial Japanese military who resided at the Mapo residence of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan until the recent death of the shelter’s caretaker. The NGO acting for the rights of the Korean victims from Japanese military sexual slavery has been under a prosecutorial probe for underreporting donations and questionable spending. It is now accused of stealing money from Gil.

The allegations were raised by her adopted son, who has been getting 3.5 million won ($2,894) each month from the government as a state grant to comfort women survivors. The bank account was managed by Sohn Young-mee, the head of the Mapo shelter.

When the son and his wife visited the shelter on June 1, they discovered that money had been withdrawn from the account in huge sums — up to 20 million won. They raised the issue with the shelter head, who said that the money was taken out at the request of Gil, who spent it all. But the daughter-in-law found that the money had been wired to left-wing media organizations Media Mongu and Unification News.

The timing of the withdrawals is also suspicious. Hwang, the adopted son, in an interview in 2018 said his mother was unable to articulate well as she showed symptoms of dementia. The withdrawals started from then on. Gil received 100 million won from the government following the 2017 settlement between Seoul and Tokyo on comfort women compensations. Gil gave 10 million won to her family and donated 50 million won to the Korean Council. But Gil’s name was not on the Council’s list of donors that year. The sincerity behind Gil’s videotape also raises questions. In the will, Gil said she wished to leave everything in the hands of Yoon Mee-hyang, the former head of the council and now a ruling party lawmaker.

Sohn, under pressure to explain the money’s whereabouts, took her own life a few days later. Yoon, who would know the truth, is silent.

Two months have passed since another surviving victim Lee Yong-soo exposed suspicious spending and money management by the council. Nothing so far has been made clear despite the raid of the Mapo shelter. Yoon won’t voluntarily walk into the prosecution office. The case may go down the drain if public attention dies down.

The prosecution must see this case through.
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