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Second 'comfort women' shelter accused of embezzling donations

Seen is the House of Sharing located in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, where five surviving victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery are residing. The facility is facing accusations of embezzlement of public donations. / Yonhap
Seen is the House of Sharing located in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, where five surviving victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery are residing. The facility is facing accusations of embezzlement of public donations. / Yonhap

By Jun Ji-hye

The House of Sharing has become the second social welfare organization purported to be dedicated to supporting Korean victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery, to be accused of embezzling public donations and failing to properly care for the surviving victims.

Five surviving victims including Lee Ok-seon, 93, are currently residing at the House of Sharing facility in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province.

Kim Dae-wol, an official at the House of Sharing, along with six other staff, claimed in a statement, Tuesday, that the organization has been promoting itself as a professional nursing facility dedicated to caring for the surviving victims who were forced to serve Japanese soldiers in brothels during World War II, but in fact has never offered proper medical treatment or welfare services.

"The House of Sharing has been operated dictatorially by two executives, recruited by the organization, for about 20 years," they said in a statement. "The executives made the surviving victims pay medical fees and the costs of purchasing necessary items on their own."

They added the organization has collected an enormous sum through donations by using the victims, noting that it currently possesses real estate worth more than 6 billion won ($4.9 million) in addition to more than 7 billion won in cash.

The organization was established in 1992 through funds raised from various circles including the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

Following the whistleblower complaints, various suspicions have been raised by media and critics of the House of Sharing, including one that part of the donations have been used to pay the health insurance premium of an elderly monk who serves as chairman of the organization's board of directors.

The board issued an apology over the controversies later in the day, but denied the embezzlement allegations.

It said the organization had been audited by Gwangju City, March 16, which stated it had found no evidence of embezzlement.

This latest controversy comes soon after the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group advocating for the wartime sex slavery victims, was accused of similar acts of corruption.

Lee Yong-soo, one of the surviving victims, claimed May 7 that the group had failed to use any of the public donations it received for the welfare and benefit of the victims.

Prosecutors conducted a search and seizure operation at the group's office, Wednesday.


Seen is the House of Sharing located in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, where five surviving victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery are residing. The facility is facing accusations of embezzlement of public donations. / Yonhap
Seen is the House of Sharing located in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, where five surviving victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery are residing. The facility is facing accusations of embezzlement of public donations. / Yonhap

By Jun Ji-hye

The House of Sharing has become the second social welfare organization purported to be dedicated to supporting Korean victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery, to be accused of embezzling public donations and failing to properly care for the surviving victims.

Five surviving victims including Lee Ok-seon, 93, are currently residing at the House of Sharing facility in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province.

Kim Dae-wol, an official at the House of Sharing, along with six other staff, claimed in a statement, Tuesday, that the organization has been promoting itself as a professional nursing facility dedicated to caring for the surviving victims who were forced to serve Japanese soldiers in brothels during World War II, but in fact has never offered proper medical treatment or welfare services.

"The House of Sharing has been operated dictatorially by two executives, recruited by the organization, for about 20 years," they said in a statement. "The executives made the surviving victims pay medical fees and the costs of purchasing necessary items on their own."

They added the organization has collected an enormous sum through donations by using the victims, noting that it currently possesses real estate worth more than 6 billion won ($4.9 million) in addition to more than 7 billion won in cash.

The organization was established in 1992 through funds raised from various circles including the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

Following the whistleblower complaints, various suspicions have been raised by media and critics of the House of Sharing, including one that part of the donations have been used to pay the health insurance premium of an elderly monk who serves as chairman of the organization's board of directors.

The board issued an apology over the controversies later in the day, but denied the embezzlement allegations.

It said the organization had been audited by Gwangju City, March 16, which stated it had found no evidence of embezzlement.

This latest controversy comes soon after the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group advocating for the wartime sex slavery victims, was accused of similar acts of corruption.

Lee Yong-soo, one of the surviving victims, claimed May 7 that the group had failed to use any of the public donations it received for the welfare and benefit of the victims.

Prosecutors conducted a search and seizure operation at the group's office, Wednesday.


Jun Ji-hye jjh@koreatimes.co.kr

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