Donations for ‘comfort women’ group allegedly diverted by former leader in South Korea

Yoon Mee-hyang

SEOUL — An independent member of the South Korean National Assembly who once headed a South Korean group that supports former so-called comfort women is suspected of misusing donations to the group to pay for meals at a Korean barbeque restaurant, a speeding fine and income tax, among other charges.

In September last year, Yoon Mee-hyang, 56, was indicted on eight counts of crimes such as illegally receiving government and local government subsidies.

She is currently on trial at the Seoul Western District Court.

The Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean daily, first reported the details of the embezzlement charges.

The Chosun Ilbo reported on Oct. 5 about Yoon’s indictment, which was submitted by the Ministry of Justice to a member of the National Assembly who belongs to the People Power Party, the largest conservative opposition party.

The indictment alleges that Yoon embezzled money 217 times, amounting to about 100 million won, or about ¥9.52 million, and that misappropriations were a regular occurrence.

The revelation of the new details is likely to further damage the support group, which holds anti-Japan rallies in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul every Wednesday.

According to the indictment, Yoon used about 260,000 won in donations to pay for a bill at a Korean barbeque restaurant in March 2015 and also diverted money to pay for massage parlors, duty-free shops and grocery stores.

It was also reported that she had appropriated the group’s accounts.

In April 2016, she allegedly withdrew 80,000 won to pay a speeding ticket, and in 2018, she allegedly paid income tax with 250,000 won transferred to her account. In July 2016, 2 million won was allegedly transferred to Yoon’s account for her medical expenses. In March 2018, 1.82 million won was allegedly transferred to Yoon’s daughter’s account without stating a purpose.

At the trial in August, Yoon denied the contents of the indictment, stating, “I have lived without shame as an activist for the past 30 years.”

Yoon was expelled from the ruling left-leaning Democratic Party of Korea — the party of President Moon Jae-in — in June on suspicion of illegally concealing the ownership of real estate in the name of a relative. However, she has not resigned from the National Assembly.