Proving the Yoo family’s liability

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Proving the Yoo family’s liability

Prosecutors are investigating the owner of Chonghaejin Marine, the company that operated the ill-fated Sewol ferry that capsized April 16 off Korea’s southwestern coast. Yoo Byung-eun and his two sons are suspected of orchestrating the reckless and illegal management that led to the accident. But prosecutors shouldn’t stop at pinning down a scapegoat to ease public rage over this fatal incident, which has left nearly 200 people dead. They must also try to uncover the illegal corporate and industrial connections that contributed to it.

An investigation team of the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office summoned Yoo’s siblings, who are currently abroad, demanding they report to the prosecutor’s office by Tuesday. Yoo, the tycoon behind a holding company that runs a host of other companies, including the shipping company, is expected to be summoned later this week. Prosecutors raided the accounting firm that has been overseeing the logs for his businesses. Yoo and his family members are suspected of embezzlement, tax evasion and other irregularities.

An investigation into the family, the size of its wealth and how it was accumulated and spent is necessary for the state to figure out its liability in order to pay damages to the victims’ families. Moreover, the Yoo family is suspected of various irregularities and illegalities in building and hiding their wealth. But prosecutors must be able to find a connection between those irregularities and the sinking of the ferry. If they cannot prove that the Yoo family ran the shipping company poorly and caused the accident, a criminal case would be hard to build.

Corporate liability behind the sinking is unquestionable. The Sewol ferry was carrying cargo two to three times the standard safety level. The Sewol also easily lost balance and listed because the operator did not comply with the safety regulations. Crew members on board were mostly inexperienced and untrained in an effort to save on labor costs.

While running the shipping company, the Yoo family used corporate money to fund private businesses to increase their family wealth. Prosecutors discovered the family had created three paper companies to funnel billions of dollars overseas. They are also suspected to have purchased a large amount of real estate properties through a farming association. Yoo also has been acting as a photographer under a pseudonym to sell his pictures to his companies and buy an entire village in France. After the accident, Yoo offered to donate 10 billion won ($9.66 million). Prosecutors must come up with undeniable evidence to make corporate greed pay.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 28, Page 34

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.

검찰이 세월호를 운영하는 청해진해운의 실소유주 유병언씨(전 세모그룹 회장) 일가에 대해 수사를 벌이고 있다. 유씨 일가의 부실 경영이 세월호 참사의 배경이라는 지적이 고개를 들고 있다. 검찰은 단순히 국민들의 분노를 해소하는 차원에 그치지 말고 세월호 침몰과의 구체적 연결고리를 밝혀내야 할 책임이 있다.
유씨 일가의 비리 의혹을 수사 중인 인천지검 특별수사팀은 해외에 체류 중인 유씨의 차남과 두 딸 등에게 29일까지 귀국해 조사를 받으라고 통보했다. 유씨도 이르면 이번 주중 소환될 것으로 보인다. 앞서 검찰은 유씨와 관련된 회사를 담당해온 회계사 사무실에 대해 압수수색을 실시한 뒤 확보한 자료를 토대로 유씨 일가의 비자금 조성 경위를 조사 중이다.
이와 같은 전방위 수사에 대해 그 필요성을 인정하지 않을 수 없다. 사고 피해자들에 대한 손해배상과 혈세가 투입된 구조비용의 구상권 청구를 위해서도 유씨 일가의 정확한 재산규모, 조성경위, 사용처를 규명해야 한다. 횡령·배임·탈세·재산해외도피 등 갖가지 의혹이 제기되고 있는 만큼 특별 수사의 요건도 갖추고 있다. 그러나 중요한 건 유씨 일가 의혹과 침몰 사고와의 연관성을 입증해야 하는 것이다. 유씨 일가가 청해진해운 등을 실질적으로 경영했고, 그들의 부실경영이 침몰 사고의 원인이란 사실을 밝혀내지 못하면 법적 책임을 묻기 어렵기 때문이다.
청해진해운의 세월호 부실 운영은 이미 기정사실이 돼 있다. 세월호는 규정보다 2~3배나 많은 화물을 적재했던 것으로 드러났다. 더욱이 균형을 잡기 위해 배에 채우는 평형수를 덜 채운 것이 세월호가 복원력을 잃고 침몰한 원인으로 분석되고 있다. 또 청해진해운은 인건비를 줄이기 위해 선장 등 선박직 선원 다수를 저임금 비정규직으로 채용한 뒤 무리한 운항을 해왔다.
이같은 부실 운영은 유씨 일가가 사업을 문어발식으로 확장하면서 청해진해운 등 계열사 경영이 악화된 데 따른 것으로 지적되고 있다. 유씨 일가가 페이퍼컴퍼니(서류상 회사) 3곳을 통해 수백억원의 비자금을 조성한 정황이 검찰 조사에서 포착됐다. 이와 함께 영농조합을 활용해 전국 곳곳에 부동산을 위장 보유하고 있다는 의혹까지 불거졌다. 유씨는 ‘아해(Ahae)’라는 예명의 사진작가로 활동하며 사진을 청해진해운 등 관계사에 팔거나 프랑스의 한 마을을 통째로 사들이기도 했다.
유씨 측이 “전재산인 100억 원을 내놓겠다”며 배짱을 부리는 것이나,우리 사회 일각의 “무조건 처벌하라“는 식의 감정적 대응은 사태 해결에 도움이 되지 않는다. 검찰은 자신들의 배를 불리기 위한 유씨 일가의 행동들이 얼마나 참혹한 결과를 낳았는지를 낱낱이 국민 앞에 보여줘야 할 것이다.
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