Resign and go to trial

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Resign and go to trial

 Rep. Yoon Mee-hyang — a former lawmaker of the ruling Democratic party (DP) who previously headed the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan — embezzled more than 100 million won ($84,000) from donations for aged survivors of Japanese military aggression, according to the indictment of the prosecution.

She was indicted in September last year, but her criminal charges were belatedly made public due to the Justice Ministry’s guidelines not to disclose them until the first trial.

Under the indictment document, Yoon, now an independent lawmaker, misappropriated a total 100.37 million won from the donation reserve from January 2011 to March last year. She used it as pocket money. She sometimes used it to buy “gifts” for the survivors, but mostly spent it on dining and shopping. She also spent the fund for foot massages and to pay off traffic tickets.

In January 2014, she wired 920,000 won to her husband’s account after buying gifts for him. For her medical checkup, she transferred 2 million won to her personal account in July 2016. In March 2018, she removed a donation of 1.82 million won deposited in the bank account of the head of a shelter for comfort women to send it to her daughter’s account. The head of the shelter in June committed suicide after the prosecution started an investigation into Yoon.

The records suggest Yoon spent the donations as if they were her own savings. Her defenders claim that such an accusation is an insult to Yoon, who devoted her life to fight for the rights of the survivors of Japanese wartime sexual slavery. Still, she betrayed the citizens who donated money to the council in good faith that they would offer small comforts to the survivors who had lived such a hard life. She has stained the moral principles and innocence of civilian activism.

Yoon denies any illegality in her actions. “I have no shame in my NGO activity of the last 30 years,” she said in her trial. The council explained that Yoon had repaid the funds after using it for personal purposes.

The trial will decide who is telling the truth, but it is not right that Yoon is being tried as a sitting lawmaker.

Rep. Yoon Hee-sook, an opposition lawmaker, resigned from her seat when her father was accused of breaking the law by purchasing farming land in an unauthorized way.

Rep. Kwak Sang-do of the same opposition party also stepped down from his elected post after his son’s handsome severance pay from a company implicated in a major urban development scandal.

The allegations against Yoon are even graver. She must immediately surrender her title.
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