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Gender Ministry will follow law in dealing with ‘comfort women’ support group: spokesperson

By Ko Jun-tae

Published : June 12, 2020 - 14:19

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said Friday that it would abide by the law in responding to any issues that arise with regard to a controversial civic group supporting survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery.

The group, the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, has received 1 billion won ($829,000) from the government over the past two years to support the victims, it added.  

“If any problem is discovered, we will take care of it in accordance with laws and principles,” a ministry official said in a press briefing Friday. “We have been monitoring (the Korean Council) and Peaceful Our Home since they have been seen as problematic. We are making calls at times and visiting the sites as needed.”

Peaceful Our Home is the group-run shelter for survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery, often referred to as “comfort women.” Its leader was found dead last week in a suspected suicide.

A prosecutorial investigation is currently underway to look into allegations that the Korean Council and its former leader Rep. Yoon Mi-hyang misused donations and exploited the survivors for their own political endeavors. The group’s offices and affiliated facilities, including Peaceful Our Home, were searched as part of the probe.

While the ministry said it would act in accordance with regulations, it explained that “nothing has been set” when asked what the ministry might do if the prosecutors uncover problems.

More than 1.35 billion won is set aside within the ministry’s budget for 2021 to support the survivors, with a large portion of that going to the Korean Council. If misuse of funds is proven, the ministry could terminate its financial support for the Korean Council.

The ministry added that it is reviewing the possibility of terminating financial support for Peaceful Our Home, as the last of its residents left the shelter Thursday. The ministry allocates a total of 30 million won per year to support the shelter’s operations, and said half that amount was spent in the first half of this year.

Also during the press briefing, the ministry clarified that it had refused to submit data requested by Rep. Kwak Sang-do from the main opposition United Future Party, as doing so would have meant disclosing sensitive personal information about the survivors, including their medical history and health status.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)