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Editorial: Comfort women advocacy group should stop holding anti-Japan rallies and remove statue

A former South Korean comfort woman has said that the anti-Japanese rallies held in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul “are teaching hatred” and “should be stopped.” We would like to see the advocacy group sponsoring the activities heed her criticism and quickly remove the comfort woman statue, which serves as a symbol of hatred toward Japan.


The woman has accused the group holding the rallies of mismanagement of funds. In fact, the woman used to be a member of the group. A scandal has now erupted over the group’s opaque accounting procedures. The Moon administration has a responsibility to appropriately handle the investigation and not sit idly by.


At a press conference on May 7, former comfort woman Lee Yong-soo called for an end to the anti-Japan protest rallies held every Wednesday and criticized the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, which sponsors the events.


Lee criticized former Council chair Yoon Mee-hyang, who ran as a ruling party-affiliated candidate in the April South Korean general election and won a seat in the National Assembly. Lee accused the group of misappropriating donations collected from the public to support the former comfort women.


Lee engaged in advocacy work with Yoon and the group from the days of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, the predecessor of today’s Council for Justice and Remembrance. Lee is known for the embrace she received from U.S. President Donald Trump during a banquet held at the South Korean president’s office during the U.S. leader’s 2017 visit to South Korea. She is the symbol of the so-called comfort women issue.


In a 2015 interview with a South Korean magazine, however, she criticized the advocacy group, saying that it “does not listen to the views of the parties in question (former comfort women) and rejects talks with Japan.”


We do not know why Lee has recently leveled stronger criticism at the group, but we agree with her insistence that the anti-Japan rallies should be ended. It is also significant that she has brought into sharp relief the group’s improper management.


Among South Korean conservatives, there reportedly is strong-rooted criticism of Yoon and her group, which persists with the anti-Japan campaign over the comfort women issue. Conservatives say the group “is using the former comfort women [for its own purposes].”


There are also reports in South Korean media that the Council has opaque accounting procedures and that Yoon fails to distinguish between work and private matters.


Yoon says that “Lee’s memory has changed (from what it was before).” The Council says there were “some mistakes in our accounting but nothing illegal.” According to the South Korean media, however, prosecutors have initiated an investigation after receiving information about misappropriation of funds.


Some ruling party members defend Yoon, but it is not acceptable for an “anything goes” approach to be taken provided the matter is “anti-Japan.” The facts of the allegations should be elucidated.

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