The family of former South Korean "comfort woman" Gil Won-ok (L) said Thursday Gil was used by various NGOs to raise funds. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
June 18 (UPI) -- South Korean families of former comfort women who took part in the rallies of an organization accused of misappropriating funds say their relatives were forced to serve as "panhandlers" for the group.
Hwang Sun-hee, the son of Gil Won-ok, who was raped by Japanese soldiers at a wartime comfort station in Harbin, Manchuria, said Thursday that Yoon Mi-hyang, founder of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance and a lawmaker with Seoul's ruling Democratic Party, used his mother to turn a profit, South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported.
"The families of [former comfort women] will take this matter into our own hands, such that we are no longer pushed around by other organizations," Hwang said.
Hwang told reporters the families have started their own committee to represent the interests of victims. The Korean Council has claimed its work is vital to the women, even after some of the women have come forward to accuse Yoon of financial misconduct.
Hwang said the activism, as well as obtaining an apology from the Japanese government, are important activities. But he also suggested addressing the misappropriation allegations should take priority.
"The victims are all old and sick and there are only a few survivors left," he said. "Judgment is needed on the embezzlement of funds that should have gone" to the victims.
Hwang also thanked Lee Yong-soo, a former comfort woman who first drew attention to Yoon's alleged misconduct in May. Yoon has said Lee is lying and has refused to resign from parliament.
Hwang's group said Yoon's group and affiliated organizations might have been taking money out of Gil's personal account, Newsis reported Thursday.
According to Hwang and the others, tens of thousands of dollars were taken out and sent to Sohn Young-mi, the head of Peaceful Our Home, a comfort women's shelter, and a Yoon associate.
Sohn was recently found dead in her home. Local authorities ruled the death a suicide.