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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 19)

All News 07:09 May 19, 2020

Deep disappointment
Ex-council chief needs to explain why new allegations appear

The controversy over financial mishandlings by the Korean Council for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan and its former chief Yoon Mi-hyang, is deepening the disappointment for many who rallied for the peaceful civic movement.

The latest episode involves the former House of Peace and Healing the council purchased in 2013 in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province. A country house was bought for 750 million won ($608,000) using a 1 billion won corporate donation to provide shelter for the surviving victims of wartime sexual slavery. Far from Seoul, it was mainly used for other purposes including workshops. In a poor judgment, the council also paid 75 million won over six years to Yoon's father to manage the house.

The house was recently sold for 420 million won, about half of the purchase price and interior costs that it later accrued. Because Yoon's acquaintance introduced the house to the council, there are suspicions whether insider perks were involved in the "overpriced" purchasing of the home.

On Monday, a civic group filed a complaint against Yoon over the transactions regarding the house. Yoon and the advocacy group already face investigation by the prosecution after civic groups filed a complaint over the council's lack of financial transparency, including the use of Yoon's personal bank account for a donation drive for special occasions. Yoon and the advocacy group should respond fully to clear all areas of suspicion.

It is a bit dizzying to hear further allegations since Lee Yong-soo, 92, a former "comfort woman," raised questions about the council's financial mishandling of donations in early May.

The council has acknowledged "minor" errors in accounting, and has apologized for employing Yoon's father. In a recent interview, Yoon has expressed apology for the ongoing situation, but vowed to prove her sincerity through parliamentary activities.

Calls are growing for Yoon, who won a ruling party proportional representation seat, to resign. It is unfortunate these controversies over a thorny issue question her decades of commitment to a peaceful movement. In fairness, it must devastate the civic group to find its management falling short, whether it be in hindsight or not.

Yoon has dubbed the intense scrutiny over her and the advocacy group as a political scheme by conservative forces. But slowly, ruling party officials are expressing concern over the allegations and controversy surrounding her. She and the council owe clear answers to the survivors and those who rallied for and donated to the civic movement.

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