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Former South Korea 'comfort woman' under attack, Seoul's opposition says

Former South Korea 'comfort woman' under attack, Seoul's opposition says
Kwak Sang-do (2-L), a South Korean lawmaker with the main opposition United Future Party, said Monday former "comfort women" activist Yoon Mi-hyang purchased at least five real estate properties in her name, using public funds from her NGO. Photo by Elizabeth Shim/UPI

SEOUL, June 1 (UPI) -- A former South Korean "comfort woman" who rattled her country with the bombshell revelation a longtime activist "used" victims of Japanese wartime brothels is facing personal attacks, a local lawmaker said Monday.

Jeon Ju-hye, a parliamentarian with the United Future Party, South Korea's main opposition conservatives, told reporters during a meeting of the party's task force on comfort women investigations the 91-year-old Lee Yong-soo, who has said she was first raped at a wartime station in Taiwan under Japanese rule, was facing personal attacks from supporters of Yoon Mi-hyang, the activist accused of funneling money meant for victims into her personal account.

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"The attacks against Lee Yong-soo has crossed a line," Jeon said. "We urge those who are committing secondary offenses to stop the abuse immediately."

Vulgar language directed at Lee began to emerge after Friday, when Yoon, a new lawmaker with the ruling Democratic Party, suggested Lee was lying about never receiving funds collected by the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery, Yoon's non-governmental organization.

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"After deeply contemplating Grandmother Lee Yong-soo's points and tremendous perspective, I have found it is not true that we never delivered money raised for the victims," Yoon had said during what was described as a public apology in the local press.

Following Yoon's dismissal of allegations, her supporters began to assail Lee on social media, calling the former comfort woman a "dementia patient," and even an "old prostitute." Lee has said she was only 16 when forcibly taken from her hometown on the Korean Peninsula.

Rumors have also propagated on social media that Lee engaged in a "soul wedding" with a Japanese kamikaze pilot during wartime, following Yoon's Friday briefing. Lee's representatives said the claims are a distortion of a Hankyoreh newspaper article published on Aug. 27, 1998. Lee did not "marry" a Japanese pilot, but took part in a memorial service, the source said, according to local paper JoongAng Ilbo.

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On Monday during the task force briefing, other conservatives took aim at the ruling party and President Moon Jae-in for not denouncing Yoon. The new lawmaker purchased at least five real estate properties, using funds collected from her NGO, said UFP lawmaker Kwak Sang-do, who is leading the investigations into the funds.

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Kwak said Yoon used affiliated groups, including the Hope of Kim Bok-dong Foundation, to benefit her family. A "scholarship" was awarded to Yoon's daughter in 2012 by the foundation -- named after a former comfort woman -- for tuition at a school in Chicago, Illinois. Yoon also paid out about $61,000 to her father, who worked as a "caretaker" for the Anseong Healing Center, a comfort women shelter outside Seoul, according to Kwak.

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 to make the purchase, according to local press reports.

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UFP lawmaker Park Sung-joong condemned Yoon and ruling party politicians for "using" comfort women to enhance their image, then "tossing them out, when they are no longer of value."

Park said President Moon staged photo-ops with Lee Yong-soo in May 2017, when he was running for president.

"Now Moon's supporters are calling [Lee] a Japanese officer's lover, married through a 'soul wedding.' Or, they are accusing her of dementia, or an elderly person paralyzed with greed."

Lee has said Yoon must resign from Seoul's National Assembly, but ruling party lawmakers have stood by the controversial activist, who is believed to have played a critical role in dismantling a 2015 accord between Seoul and Tokyo on comfort women compensation.

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"The [ruling] Democratic Party is maintaining a deep silence," said Joo Ho-young, floor leader of UFP. "The truth may only be revealed after a good fight."

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