Proving the Yoo family’s liabilityProsecutors 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.
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.