Lawmaker Yoon Mee-hyang fined 15 million won for embezzling donations

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Lawmaker Yoon Mee-hyang fined 15 million won for embezzling donations

Independent Rep. Yoon Mee-hyang speaks to reportersat the Seoul Western District Court on Friday after a hearing on her alleged embezzlement case. [NEWS1]

Independent Rep. Yoon Mee-hyang speaks to reportersat the Seoul Western District Court on Friday after a hearing on her alleged embezzlement case. [NEWS1]

 
The Seoul Western District Court on Friday handed Yoon Mee-hyang, an independent lawmaker, a fine of 15 million won ($11,900) for embezzling donations to a civic group supporting victims of the Japanese military's wartime sexual slavery.  
 
Rep. Yoon, the former head of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance and a longtime activist for so-called comfort women survivors, faced eight charges including fraud, embezzlement and breach of trust. She was found partially guilty of one of the charges regarding embezzling donations from the civic group.  
 
The court said Friday that a total of 17 million won was embezzled from the corporate account of the Korean Council and said Yoon's "guilt is not light as she should have managed the donations more thoroughly," pointing out that personal and public funds were not properly distinguished.  
 
However, the judge acknowledged that a large part of the funds "seem to have been used for the Korean Council's activities" and that it is "difficult to see that there was a deliberate intention to embezzle from the beginning."
 
Yoon, who was elected as a proportional lawmaker of the liberal Democratic Party (DP) in April 2020, came under intense scrutiny in May that year following public accusations by Lee Yong-soo, a comfort woman survivor, who alleged that Yoon had exploited her and other victims for decades.  
 
Yoon was accused of misappropriating donations and government subsidies meant for the victims during her time as head of the Korean Council, collecting it in her private bank accounts and using it for personal matters.  
 
In September 2020, Yoon was indicted by prosecutors on eight charges including embezzling hundreds of millions of won in donations.  
 
The DP suspended Yoon in September 2020 and later expelled her from the party in June 2021.  
 
Last month, prosecutors requested a five-year prison sentence for Yoon.  
 
The Seoul court said Friday that other charges raised by the prosecutors were difficult to prove with the given evidence.  
 
Conservative groups gathered in front of the court calling for Yoon to apologize as she entered the courtroom.  
 
Another former director of the council, who was indicted as Yoon's accomplice, was acquitted by the court Friday. Prosecution had demanded a three-year jail sentence for her last month.  
 
"I was found not guilty of most of the prosecution's unreasonable charges," Yoon told reporters after the trial. "I will fully explain the remaining allegations through the appeal process."
 

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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