Accusations against South Korea comfort women activist center on real estate deals

A South Korean activist at the forefront of comfort women's issues is under growing scrutiny. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
A South Korean activist at the forefront of comfort women's issues is under growing scrutiny. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

May 18 (UPI) -- A prominent South Korean activist who advocates for former comfort women is refusing to resign as allegations grow over misappropriated funds intended for victims of Japanese wartime brothels.

Yoon Mi-hyang, president of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, is accused of misusing funds for a comfort women community home and possibly using donations to purchase her personal apartment in 2012, Yonhap reported Monday.


The community-living facility for the elderly women, located outside Seoul, was purchased by Yoon's NGO for about $600,000. The group received donations from Hyundai Heavy Industries, according to The Korea Times.

Meanwhile, Yoon's father received about $60,000 for maintaining the building.

The Korean Council also spent about $80,000 on interior design for the house.

In an interview with South Korea's CBS Radio, Yoon, a lawmaker-elect with the ruling Democratic Party, said the money on interior design and equipment was spent in order to "make the grandmothers feel good" about their residence.

The women were never moved into the house, however, according to reports.

Yoon has also denied claims she purchased her current home, an apartment, using funds from her organization. According to local reports, the activist purchased her home before she sold her previous house, inviting allegations she may have used funds that did not belong to her household.


A Korean Council source told local newspaper Hankyoreh the organization has always been "a one-woman system" under Yoon for 20 years. Employees and volunteers are not trusted with internal information, particularly on the flow of funds, which may have been under the exclusive supervision of Yoon.

Yoon's appointment to the National Assembly came under scrutiny earlier this month, when former comfort woman Lee Yong-soo accused the activist of misappropriating funds and "using" past victims of wartime rape stations as a front for her money-raising activities.

Lee, who has said she was first raped at the age of 16 at a Japanese military brothel in Taiwan, told reporters she and other women had never seen the funds raised during rallies and other donation drives. Yoon has not addressed Lee's charges directly.

Latest Headlines