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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 13)

All News 07:03 May 13, 2020

Truth in dispute
Gov't inquiry, dialogue required for resolution

A regrettable feud has erupted between Lee Yong-soo, a 92-year-old survivor of wartime sex slavery by colonial Japan, and Yoon Mi-hyang, former head of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.

Lee made bombshell remarks last week when she said she was quitting the Wednesday rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul that shed light on sex slavery issues. She blamed Yoon -- a lawmaker-elect under the proportional representation system for a party affiliated with the ruling Democratic Party of Korea -- for not making sincere efforts to elicit a formal apology from the Japanese government and compensation.

Lee also accused the council of misappropriating money donated for the welfare of the former "comfort women." The council apologized Monday for causing pain and disappointment, but denied the accusation. The council refused to disclose any financial documents, saying nongovernment organizations were not obliged to do so. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family should launch an investigation into the council to confirm the misappropriation allegations.

For her part, Yoon expressed regret, but dismissed another allegation that she pocketed the council's money to finance her daughter's studies in the U.S.

Lee is among the 18 surviving victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery registered with the government. She has been a staunch voice in denouncing the crimes against humanity, contributing to a larger women's peace movement in Korea.

The council and Yoon should answer the complaints that they have neglected protecting the rights of the slavery victims and addressing their grievances. Yoon, in particular, needs to pay heed to what Lee said. No one can easily understand why Lee and Yoon, who worked together for the past 28 years to denounce Japan's wartime atrocities, are now at odds with each other.

Lee also raised the issue that Yoon failed to notify the survivors about the 1 billion yen ($9.3 million) compensation that Tokyo had agreed to pay under a 2015 agreement with Seoul. She blasted both Yoon and the foreign ministry for not holding any prior consultations with the victims to gather their opinions about the agreement.

The deal with Japan under the then Park Geun-hye administration was shelved by the Moon Jae-in administration, which stated that the surviving victims had not agreed to it.

Yoon, however, blasted the row with Lee as a political scheme led by the conservative bloc including the main opposition United Future Party to discredit her election as a lawmaker.

Both the ruling and opposition blocs should refrain from attempts to claim the moral high ground in this dispute. No constituent is willing to be party to dragged-out political warfare in these pressing times, when it has the possibility to do more harm than good to Korea.

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