Comfort women activists defend movement after leader’s indictment

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Sept. 16 (UPI) — South Korean and Japanese comfort women activists showed a united front on Wednesday during a weekly gathering following the indictment of Yoon Mee-hyang, the former head of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.

Yoon, who has been suspended from her lawmaker duties by the ruling Democratic Party, was found guilty of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds, using donations for personal gain and coercing people with debilitating illnesses to donate to her cause, according to South Korea’s prosecution on Monday.

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“In the past three months, I, my group and the activists have sincerely cooperated with the investigation and provided sufficient explanations,” Yoon said. The activist also continued to deny the charges even after the indictment.

A Korean Council director, who remains unidentified, was also indicted for violating public finance law and for fraud, Newsis reported Wednesday.

Yoko Shiba, a Japanese activist with the Japan Action Network for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery, said in a statement read by South Korean activists that Yoon has been framed and forced into a confession of the alleged crimes, South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported Wednesday.

Lee Na-young, president of the Korean Council, said she would “fight the forces of hate” in the wake of Yoon’s indictment. Lee did not comment on the prosecution’s decision.

The Wednesday meeting outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul included readings of letters from past participants of comfort women rallies.

Lee Yong-soo, a former comfort woman who first came forward with the charges against Yoon, said in a written statement the bronze comfort woman statue at the rally site should not be removed. The Japanese government has called for the removal of the statue and other memorials to victims of Japanese wartime policy.

On Wednesday, Lee Na-young warned new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga against following in former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s footsteps. Lee demanded redress for former victims of Japanese wartime brothels, according to Newsis.