A detailed breakdown of embezzlements committed by the independent Lawmaker Yoon Mee-hyang (a former member of the Democratic Party), who is now on trial on charges of embezzling donations for former comfort women and using them for personal purposes was confirmed on Oct. 4. It came to light that Ms. Yoon had spent the donations at Korean barbecue restaurants, confectionery stores, and massage shops. She also spent them to pay her own traffic fines and income taxes.
Ms. Yoon is now on trial after having been indicted in September 2020 on eight charges of spending approximately 100,000,000 won from the donations for former comfort women for personal purposes (embezzlement), illegally receiving hundreds of million won from subsidies of the government and the local authorities while working from 2011 to 2020 as the head of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (later renamed as the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan). However, the indictment and details of her embezzlements have not been disclosed until now.
“The crime list” with the indictment which the office of Lawmaker Jun Joo-hyae of the People Power Party received from the legal department on this day includes details of her 217 payments amounting to 100,370,000 won from the embezzled money. According to it, Ms. Yoon spent 260,000 won from the donations via a check card at a Korean barbecue restaurant “A kalbi” on March 1, 2015. She paid 184,000 won at the “B pork” which seemed to specialize in pork dishes and 45,000 won at the “C confectionery” store on March 23, 2015. She spent most of the donations at restaurants, grocery stores, and tax-free shops.
On Christmas Eve in 2014, she transferred 230,000 won out of the donations in her personal account into another. In July 2015 she spent 90,000 won at “D Foot Shop” which appeared to be a foot massage spa. Furthermore, she spent the donations on paying public utility charges owed by her. In April 2016 she paid a speeding fine of 80,000 won using money drawn from the account of the Korean Council and in 2018 she transferred 250,000 won from it to her personal account, attaching a note saying “This was for payment of Yoon Mee-hyang’s general income tax.”
Most of Ms. Yoon’s 217 embezzlements were as large as tens or hundreds of thousand won. However, some were more than one million won. In March 2018 the donations of 1,820,000 won in the account of Ms. Son, the director of the shelter for former comfort women, were transferred to an account of Ms. Yoon’s daughter without any application specified. Ms. Son committed suicide in June 2020 when the prosecutors started a full-scale investigation against Ms. Yoon. In July 2016, 2 million won was transferred from the account of the Korean Council into that of Ms. Yoon’s with a simple note of “Yoon’s medical expenses.”
Ms. Yoon denied all the charges including embezzlement at the first hearing in August 2021. She said, “I have lived without the least shame as an activist for thirty years,” and, “The prosecutors said that the Korean Council was my private organization but this is an insult to sweat and efforts of a lot of people.” Lawmaker Jun Joo-hyae said, “Ms. Yoon must be a criminal suspect of infamous offenses if the contents of the indictment are all correct,” and “However, she is insisting she has done nothing illegal.”
The formal trial of Ms. Yoon’s case started in August 2021, eleven months after she had been prosecuted in September 2020 and the first trial is still ongoing. The preparation process of the trial was prolonged because the court accepted questions from Ms. Yoon’s side claiming that the prosecutors had not identified her charges.