Report: North Korea defector group committed fraud

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Sept. 24 (UPI) — North Korean defector-led groups in the South are under increased scrutiny amid allegations some of the organizations committed financial fraud as group leaders enriched themselves.

Vision Korea, a nonprofit created by defector-activist Kim Mi-hwa, misappropriated $51,000 after Kim collected the funds from government-owned Korea Hana Foundation, court documents obtained by South Korean television network MBC show.

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Kim received a six-month prison sentence in November for fraud. The unification ministry, which registers organizations like Vision Korea, did not conduct a probe for three years before the sentencing.

Kim, who allegedly sold an apartment in southern Seoul with a market price of about $1 million according to MBC, had asked for the government funds to build a “shelter” for North Korean women newly arrived in the South. The shelter’s address was Kim’s private residence, according to the report.

Vision Korea is also connected to far-right organizations that protested the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye in 2017, including the Korea Parent Federation, a far-right group that attacked the families of the victims of the Sewol ferry sinking. According to MBC, Vision Korea’s accounts show funds received from the Federation of Korean Industries, a pro-deregulation group, and the Park-era National Intelligence Service in 2015 and 2016.

Vision Korea profited from right-wing rallies. A rally participant told MBC they would be paid by special interest groups about $17 for attending, but Kim would take about 10% of the fee they received as commission.

Unification ministry sources told MBC the audit of Vision Korea has been delayed for three years because the group had changed its name.

Seoul has said it would inspect 109 registered corporations and 180 nonprofit organizations as part of planned audits of defector-activists. U.N. Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana has said the audits are a cause for concern, as defectors are a valuable source of information about the North.

Quintana said Wednesday China needs to protect the basic rights of North Koreans in accordance with the U.N. Refugee Convention, Voice of America’s Korean service reported.

China became a signatory to the convention on Sept. 24, 1982.