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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 25)

All News 06:52 May 25, 2020

DPK's conundrum
Ruling party must show where it stands on former activist

With the controversy over lawmaker-elect Yoon Mi-hyang, former chief of a wartime sex slavery victims' advocacy group, showing no signs of abating, the conundrum deepens for the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK).

Since survivor Lee Yong-soo on May 7 publicly raised question about inappropriate management of funds donated for the victims, answers from Yoon and the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan have not been satisfactory. As one allegation after another emerges, it is hard to suppress the question of "is there anything more we need to know?" about the high-profile civic activist who has now entered institutional politics.

In a near dereliction of duty, the DPK has been flip-flopping on its stance before finally saying determining facts precedes action. Related government agencies and the prosecution are investigating the latter aggressively as the 21st National Assembly inaugurates on May 30. An incumbent lawmaker is given immunity from arrest, making it more difficult for prosecutors to summon Yoon if needed.

The ruling party in the pending timeframe should clarify where it stands with regards to Yoon. Yoon should proffer clear-cut explanations regarding the many controversies at the heart of which lies questions about her financial transparency as a civic group leader. It would be improper for her to expect to begin her legislative tenure without that due process.

Cautiously, a few in the liberal political bloc have floated the idea that Yoon resign. Veteran liberal leaders including minor Justice Party leader Sim Sang-jung have publicly expressed the sentiment that Yoon's explanations are no longer persuasive.

The ruling party's hesitation to act against Yoon may be in deference to the movement's legacy. The survivors, Yoon and the council together have achieved much for the surviving victims of wartime sex slavery in the past near three decades. The Wednesday rallies staged in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul have transformed into a larger peaceful civic women's rights movement. But the party's reluctance however may well be an admission of insufficient screening of proportional representation seat candidates ― even if they were done by the former satellite party Civil Together ― for the April 15 general election.

The DPK and Yoon should own up to any mistakes, and take the responsible step forward.

Lee is expected to hold a press conference Monday. She has asked Yoon to attend, and so have several ruling party lawmakers, reportedly. Yoon and the DPK should act to ensure that the legacy and legitimacy of the longtime advocacy group's work is not impacted over the controversy of funds mismanagement.

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