President Moon Jae-in has stated his position on high-profile suspicions surrounding Yoon Mi-hyang for the first time since they were raised. But it is ambiguous and skirts around the nature of the Yoon issue.
What angered people across the country for the past month were suspicions about her, not “a movement for former comfort women.” In spite of this, Moon uttered “a movement for former comfort women” over and over again. Former comfort women are Korean women who were taken by Japan to serve its imperial army as its sex slaves during the Pacific War (1941-1945) when Korea was Japan’s colony. They are commonly called grandmas.
His emphasis of “a movement for former comfort women” gives an impression that he appears to be trying to cover up for the ruling party lawmaker who is at the center of the suspicions.
Moon said in a meeting with senior secretaries on Monday that “it is not right for some people to try to deny a movement for former comfort women and take away from the great cause of the movement.” He also said that “the cause is history that cannot be negated nor undermined.”
This is an out-of-the-blue remark which has little to do with suspicions raised about Yoon and the advocacy group she led. Who on earth in Korea denies a movement to provide relief to former comfort women? None would oppose it.
Moon also said that “controversies surrounding the movement are very confusing.” His words are hard to understand. People are not confused. They are infuriated and just want to know the truth about the accounting fraud allegations against Yoon.
The nature of issues related to Yoon who headed the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan is obvious.
Controversies began with Grandma Lee Yong-soo’s bombshell revelation that “grandmas have been deceived by Yoon for about 30 years.” Lee raised suspicions about the council’s accounting fraud, saying, “Where is all the money it raised for grandmas? Where the money was spent is unknown.”
The controversies are a matter that could have been resolved if Yoon explained them transparently. Despite her press conference, however, suspicions have not been cleared up.
Of the money the council raised through citizen’s donations and government subsidies -- money paid by taxpayers -- about 3.7 billion won ($3.09 million) is reportedly missing from its account books or questionably recorded.
Yoon is said to have raised a total of 280 million won for the grandmas through her personal bank accounts over 11 occasions, one of which was a grandma’s funeral.
The council bought an expensive house with donated money as a hostel for grandmas to rest and then sold it cheaply, incurring a loss of about 400 million won. Grandmas rarely used the house, which was used by civic groups close to the council.
Moon did not say a word about these suspicions.
What detracted from the great cause for grandmas were suspicions that Yoon and the council may have misused donations and subsidies that should have been used for grandmas.
Moon’s remarks are off the point. People suspect Yoon may have committed accounting irregularities as head of the council for her personal gain, while Moon’s words give an impression that the cause for grandmas is challenged by the suspicions. People demand clarification of suspicions, but the president says something else.
Moon said that “the government will take this opportunity to set up a new integrated management system to enhance transparency of fund-raising activities by NGOs.
This remark seems to hide his intention to sweep existing suspicions under the carpet and enhance the transparency of civic groups’ donation management from then on.
Yoon criticizes news media and the prosecution for raising suspicions and investigating them excessively, while the president argues some people are attempting to undermine the great cause of the grandmas and blames them. This is an absurd response to shift responsibility.
The truth will be revealed through an investigation. The prosecution should get to the bottom of the issue as quickly as possible, to keep alive the cause for former comfort women seriously.