(LEAD) In shift of stance, ruling party presses lawmaker-elect Yoon to clarify scandal
(ATTN: UPDATES with more info throughout)
SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- In a clear shift of stance, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) is raising calls on its lawmaker-elect Yoon Mee-hyang, a longtime activist for wartime sexual slavery victims, to clarify various suspicions raised against her and her civic group.
The DP's pressure on Yoon for an explanation marks a clear departure from the wait-and-see stance it had maintained since Lee Yong-soo, a victim of the Japanese military's World War II sexual slavery, accused Yoon and her organization of accounting malpractices and other wrongdoings in a press conference on May 7.
The 92-year-old victim held another press conference Monday to reiterate her call that Yoon be brought to justice as prosecutors look into the growing allegations.
Lee claimed in the nationally televised news conference that the lawmaker-elect "used" aged victims to raise funds and help promote the cause of the group for the past 30 years.
"(What the DP is demanding from Yoon) is that the lawmaker-elect and (her civic group) the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan clarify the accounting transparency issue," the DP's deputy floor leader Kim Young-jin told reporters a day earlier. "She needs to take responsibility for exactly what will follow."
The latest shift of stance by the DP hints that the party has started to distance itself from the growing scandal involving Yoon as it is set to enter the new National Assembly term as a majority party later this week.
"The party is currently telling Yoon to hurry up and present her position on the issue," the DP deputy floor leader noted.
The DP has the option of ousting Yoon from the party. In that case, Yoon could retain her parliamentary seat outside of the ruling party. If she resigns before the official start of the new parliamentary term Saturday, her proportional representation seat could be handed over to another party member.
The party's leadership is unlikely to turn its back on Yoon for now despite growing calls for action even from inside the party.
DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan hinted at the party's determination to fight against rising calls for Yoon's resignation during a supreme council meeting earlier in the day.
"(The party) should not give in to allegations that are raised through something like scavenging for private information," the party leader noted.
"The related government authorities need to speed up the fact verification process (for Yoon) and I request the public make their final judgment after carefully watching it," Lee said.
His remarks are in line with the party's previous stance that it will wait and see until the allegations are factually verified or refuted.
Yoon has remained out of the public eye for more than a week. She did not show up for the party's plenary meeting of lawmaker-elects on Wednesday.
A poll by Realmeter showed Wednesday that 7 out of every 10 Koreans think Yoon should step down from her parliamentary seat.
The opposition bloc is also mounting pressure for her resignation after the main opposition United Future Party officially launched a task force dedicated to the scandal Monday.
Last week, prosecutors raided the office of the civic group and two of its related facilities in Seoul as part of their probe. They currently are scrutinizing the accounting books of the group after some 10 legal complaints against Yoon and the group have been filed by activists and others, according to prosecution officials.
Once the chamber officially launches its inaugural session sometime next week, Yoon is protected by lawmakers' immunity from arrest.
But many in the prosecution service predict that prosecutors will be unable to finish analyzing the accounting books and summon Yoon for questioning before the new parliamentary term begins.
Allegations against Yoon include collecting donations for the victims through her private bank accounts and having her father take care of a shelter for the victims for years for a monthly pay of 1.2 million won (US$973).
Her embattled civic group is suspected of purchasing the shelter building in Anseong, south of Seoul at a price far above the market value and reselling it below the market price and leaving the expenditure of some of government subsidies and other donation funds it received for the victims out of its public report and accounting books, respectively.
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