Offices of Sewol owner searched

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Offices of Sewol owner searched


A file photo of the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol. [NEWSIS]

A joint investigating team of police and prosecutors raided the offices of Chonghaejin Marine Company yesterday, which owns and operates the capsized Sewol ferry, as knowledge of the company’s owners raised suspicions about its operations.

The investigating team in charge of finding the cause of the disaster searched the offices of seven ship companies looking for any evidence related to the incident.

Officials on the investigating team found 10 computer files and documents related to the Sewol ferry at the company’s Incheon office, while the Jeju District Attorney’s Office and police found no relevant documents in their search of Chonghaejin’s Jeju office.

“Employees of Chonghaejin Marine Company committed a grave sin. I am truly sorry for the bereaved families,” Kim Han-sik, president of Chonghaejin said yesterday, referring to the ship’s failure to comply with safety regulations.

While President Park Geun-hye and the prime minister visited the scene of the accident, the owners of the marine company have not appeared in public.

The owners, reported to be a 42-year-old surnamed Yoo and his brother have not responded at all to the ferry crisis. The two owners are sons of Yoo Byeong-eon, former CEO of the bankrupt Semo ferry cruise company, which operated boat trips on the Han River in Seoul until 1997.

Yoo Byeong-eon was an evangelical pastor in Korea and a member of a religious cult, making him a suspect in the cult’s 1987 mass suicide-murder.

On Aug. 29, 1987, the bound and gagged bodies of 33 people were found stacked in two piles in a factory in Yongin, Gyeonggi, about 50 miles south of Seoul, in what appeared to be a murder-suicide linked to the cult. It is still a mystery whether the 33 people committed suicide or were murdered.

Yoo was investigated by the authority as a possible head figure of the pseudo-Christian cult, and in 1992 he was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on fraud charges related to the mass murder-suicide incident.

In 2009, Chonghaejin posted a 2 billion won ($1.9 million) operating profit, mainly from trips on the Incheon-Jeju route. But it has been suffering from poor performance in recent years, posting a 785 million won operating loss last year.

According to the Financial Supervisory Service, Chonghaejin is owned by Chonhaiji, which specializes in producing container ships, oil tankers, bulk carriers and LNG ships. Chonhaiji is owned by I-ONE-I Holdings.

The largest shareholders of I-ONE-I Holdings are Yoo Dae-kyun, the eldest son of Chonghaejin’s former Chairman Yoo Byeong-eon, and Yoo Hyuk-ki, his second son, who together hold 19.44 percent of shares.

Kim Hye-kyung, a 6.29 percent shareholder, is the wife of Yoo Byeong-eon. There are seven affiliates under I-ONE-I Holdings, including Chonghaejin Marine Company and Chonhaiji.


Correction and rebuttal statement by the Evangelical Baptist Church

The Korea JoongAng Daily, regarding the reports since April 16, 2014, about the Evangelical Baptist Church (EBC) and Yoo Byung-eun, is publishing the following corrections and an excerpt from the rebuttal statement by the EBC.


Through three past investigations by the prosecution, it has been revealed that Yoo and the EBC, also known as the “Salvation Group” and Guwonpa in Korean, are not related to the Odaeyang mass suicide incident. That was also confirmed by the prosecution in its official statement on May 21. The prosecution’s investigation also found that Yoo had not made an attempt to smuggle himself out of the country or seek political asylum in France. We, therefore, correct the concerned reports.

Yoo retired from his executive management position in 1997. He did not own any shares in the noted companies, nor had he managed operations or used the operating funds for personal reasons. There are no grounds to call him the actual owner and chairman of the company. As such, he did not provide any directives in regards to the overloading of the Sewol ferry or its renovation.

It was verified that the captain and crew members who abandoned ship at the time of the Sewol ferry accident are not members of the EBC. It has also been verified that the EBC does not own any shares of Chonghaejin Marine Company and did not engage in its management.

Rebuttal statement

The EBC’s position is that the museums in the United States and Europe can never authorize an exhibition unless the artistic value of an artist’s works is recognized by the screening committee, irrespective of the amount of money an artist donates. The EBC’s position is that the exhibitions were not a result of Mr. Yoo’s patronage or donation, and Yoo also has not coerced Chonghaejin and its affiliates to purchase his photos.

The EBC states that Yoo did not participate in the foundation of the EBC in 1981, and the church does not offer him the title “pastor.” It also says a significant part of the 240 billion won ($206 million) worth of assets suspected of belonging to the Yoo family are real estate properties owned by the farming associations, which had been established by church members.

The EBC states that there are certain churches in Korea that call the EBC a cult, solely based on differences between their’s and the EBC’s doctrines.

But the EBC does not worship a particular individual as a religious sect leader or preach any doctrine that contradicts the Bible.

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