In 2020, more than 50 South Korean civilians filed lawsuits demanding a refund of the money they had donated to organizations that supported victims of sexual slavery during the Japanese occupation of Korea. On December 20, Tuesday, the lawsuits were rejected by the court.
The organizations involved in the lawsuit are the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan and the House of Sharing. The former is a civic group dedicated to uplifting victims of sexual slavery in Korea and was headed by Rep. Yoon Mee Hyang until she stepped down in 2020. The latter organization is a shelter for comfort women.
In May 2020, Lee Yong Soo, a 94-year-old victim of Japanese sexual slavery, publicly claimed that the Korean Council and Yoon embezzled public donations and official funds meant for the survivors. After this allegation, there were suspicions about the council’s purchase of a healing center for former comfort women at a much higher price than the market value. Yoon also used personal bank accounts while collecting monetary donations during the funeral of an elderly survivor.
Yoon was the head of the council for three decades since its creation in 1990. When she won a parliamentary seat in April 2020, she stepped down. In the same year, she was indicted on the charges of misusing public donations and was suspended from the Democratic Party in September.
A whistleblower accused the House of Sharing of similar corruption around the same time the Korean Council came under scrutiny. As a result, both organizations faced lawsuits from donors. In June 2020, 23 donors sued the House of Sharing, demanding the return of ₩50.0 million KRW (about $38,900 USD). Then, in August, another group of 32 donors launched litigation to demand that the House of Sharing return ₩36.0 million KRW (about $28,000 USD) and Yoon and the Korean Council jointly return ₩1.72 million KRW (about $1,340 USD).
But on Tuesday, the Seoul Central District Court rejected both lawsuits, marking the loss of ₩90.0 million KRW (about $70,100 USD) worth of donated money for the plaintiffs.