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[Newsmaker] Comfort women shelter head found dead

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)
The head of a shelter for surviving victims of Japan’s sex slavery was found dead at her apartment amid controversy surrounding the shelter’s operator for its possible misuse of donated funds and exploitation of the victims for political ambitions.

Police said Sunday that Son Young-me, 60, was found dead at her apartment in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, at around 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

Her body was found inside the bathroom. The cause of her death is not known as of press time, but officials said they found no evidence of a breach from outside. An autopsy is planned for Monday morning.

Peaceful Our Home, located in Mapo-gu, western Seoul, is dedicated to surviving victims who were forced into prostitution for Japanese troops before and during the World War II, euphemistically called comfort women.

The death comes amid a prosecutorial investigation into the Korea Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, which operates the shelter, on allegations that its former leader misused donations and exploited the comfort women for its own political endeavors.

Since kicking off the investigation last month, prosecutors have raided the group’s offices, its affiliate museum and facilities it ran, including the one that Son headed.

Son was reported to have told others that she was under stress following the recent raid of the shelter. The comfort women advocacy group head Lee Na-young said Sunday that Son spent days under discomfort since the prosecution’s raid of the shelter. She added the deceased, who ran the shelter for 16 years, had lived a life fully devoted to the well-being of comfort women.

The shelter has been in operation for the support of comfort women on free lease from MyungSung Presbyterian Church since 2012.

The Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office said Sunday that it had not called in Son for questioning or involved her in its investigation into the scandal.

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