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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Han

Even aid money to the comfort women victims? Prosecutors must perform thorough investigations

comfort women japan and a korea

Suspicions have been raised that a large sum of money was withdrawn from the account of Kil Won-ok, who stayed at the Mapo Shelter in Seoul, operated by the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. In the past, there have been several allegations of financial wrongdoing, such as the Korean Council’s omission of support money from their accounting records and its purchase of the Anseong Shelter at a high price. However, since this latest case concerns alleged embezzlement of money paid to a former comfort woman, the shock is much bigger. The allegation was raised by pastor Hwang Sun-hee, who Ms. Kil raised as a foster child from when he was a baby, and his wife. According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Ms. Kil is eligible to receive 3.5 million won (about 3,000 USD) per month from the government into her bank account, since she classifies as a recipient of the programme to support the livelihood stability for the Japanese military comfort woman. Because the Korean Council and the Shelter managed this bank account, the family was not aware of the exact content. On June 1st, when Pastor Hwang and his wife visited the shelter and checked her passbook, they found out for the first time.

His wife, Jo, revealed that the entire money of the account had been withdrawn. Multiple large withdrawals were made, in the amounts of 20 million won, 4 million won, 5 million won, and so on. When asked what the money was used for, Director Son Young-mil, now deceased, who managed the shelter, said, "The money was given to Ms. Kil, who spent it all herself." However, Jo saw in the passbook that the money was sent to Media Mongu and Tongil (Unification) News. It is only natural for anyone seeing this to ask the question - did the Korean Council withdraw the money and spend it to perform a "financial supporter" role in the liberal camp?

The timing of the withdrawals is also eye-catching. Pastor Hwang said, during an interview in 2018, "I haven't been able to have a conversation with my mother from two years ago, since she started to show symptoms of dementia". According to Jo, the withdrawals from the account beganat around that time too. In 2017, Ms. Kil received 100 million won, which was gathered through domestic donations to replace the 2015 comfort women agreement payment. Out of this money, Ms. Kil gave 10 million won to her family, and donated 50 million won to the Korean Council. However, Ms. Kil's name was not on the list of donors that year. Ms. Kil's video will, taped last year, also needs to be verified. In the will, Ms. Kil says, "I will entrust Ms. Yoon Mee-hyang of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan to take care of everything that needs to be settled related to me."

Director Son, who was urged to give a clear explanation, chose the extreme measure (suicide) on June 3rd. Lawmaker Yoon Mee-hyang, who should be held responsible for explaining the facts, has turned away from this issue. This must be forcibly revealed through investigation by prosecutors. The prosecutors, on the 16th, called on Pastor and Mrs. Hwang as witnesses for a hearing. Yesterday, a civilian group submitted a request for investigation to the Supreme Prosecutor's Office. Now, 6 weeks have passed since Ms. Lee Yong-soo made her revelations, and 4 weeks have passed since the prosecutors madea house search of both the Korean Council and the Mapo shelter. During that time, no facts have been made clear. There is no clear schedule for a direct summons for Lawmaker Yoon, who stands in the center of all of these allegations. Some worry that those involved are just buying time and the whole issue will get muddled up and brushed away. We hope the prosecution would perform a thorough and swift investigation. The entire country is watching.


JoongAng Ilbo Editorial (June 19th, 2020)

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