|Prosecutors move boxes after completing their search-and-seizure operation, Thursday, at a shelter in Seoul operated by the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. The group is facing suspicions that it embezzled funds donated to help victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery. / Yonhap|
By Jun Ji-hye
Prosecutors are speeding up their investigation into suspicions that an activist-turned-lawmaker-elect and a civic group she led embezzled funds donated to help Korean survivors of wartime sex slavery.
Prosecutors have conducted search-and-seizure operations at facilities operated by the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan for two consecutive days from Wednesday, securing accounting documents, among others.
The facilities searched included the group's office and a shelter it has operated to offer housing for the victims who were forced by the Japanese military to serve soldiers in brothels from 1932 to 1945.
Currently, one of the surviving victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery, Gil Won-ok, is residing at the shelter, called the House of Peace, located in Seoul's Mapo-gu.
Prosecutors said they went to the shelter, Thursday, as the group is believed to have kept some accounting documents there.
Controversies surrounding the group began after Lee Yong-soo, another surviving victim, claimed May 7 that the group has never used public donations for the benefit of the victims.
|Yoon Mee-hyang, a lawmaker-elect and former leader of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan|
Beginning with search-and-seizure operations, prosecutors are working to trace Yoon and the group's bank account activities to expand their investigation into the alleged embezzlement and breach of trust.
The investigators are also expected to ban Yoon and other persons of interest from leaving the country, and summon them soon for questioning.
Prosecutors are in a rush because Yoon is set to start her term as a lawmaker, May 30, when the 21st National Assembly is inaugurated, according to political experts.
"An incumbent lawmaker is given immunity from arrest. Thus, after May 30, it would more difficult for prosecutors to summon Yoon," Sehan University visiting professor Bae Jong-ho said. "Worries about destruction of evidence would be other reasons for the prosecutors speeding up their investigation."
The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan criticized the prosecution for moving ahead with its search-and-seizure operation at the shelter, in which a surviving victim is residing.
"We have already vowed to submit relevant documents kept at the shelter to the prosecution," the group said in a statement. "The prosecution's behavior amounts to human rights violations and disrespecting the victim."