Severing dirty connections

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Severing dirty connections

As the investigations of the Sewol ferry tragedy continue, corruption and malpractice rampant in the shipping industry stemming from filthy bureaucratic connections are being laid bare on a daily basis. A high-ranking official of the Korea Coast Guard who led an initial investigation into the calamity turned out to be a member of a maverick faction of the Baptist Church led by Yoo Byung-eon, the de facto head of Chonghaejin Marine Company, which operated the ferry.

The joint prosecution-police investigation confirmed that the ferry had been loaded with cargo three times heavier than its maximum capacity. A first mate of the ship told investigators that the shipping company drained the ship’s ballast water, which sailors call “lifesaving water,” to carry more freight. The authorities have already arrested a director of the shipping company who gave the order to drain the ballast water. More surprisingly, CCTV footage showed that unregistered heavy equipment, including three excavators, were also loaded onto the ship.

A noticeable reduction in sea lane cargo traffic from Incheon to Jeju after the April 16 Sewol tragedy explicitly demonstrates how overloaded routinely sail the routes off the coast of the country. Responsibility must first be borne by the Korea Shipping Association, which is in charge of checking the safety of passenger and cargo ships, and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, which has to monitor and oversee the association. We take special note of the fact that officials who retired from the ministry have been serving as chairmen of the board of the association for a whopping 38 years.

A special investigation team at the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office has arrested an executive of the KSA on charges of receiving bribes from a number of shipping companies. The Korean Register of Shipping, a nonprofit organization with the mission of scrutinizing the safety of commercial ships, is also under investigation by a special team at the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office for having offered bribes to the ministry’s officials. The Korea Shipowners’ Association, a lobbying group, turned out to have provided financial support for a study group of lawmakers last year. The focus of the investigation is being narrowed to the sticky connections between former officials of the ministry and the maritime industry.

President Park Geun-hye vowed to eradicate dirty connections between officialdom and industry. The prosecution must put an end to the shameful practice once and for all.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 2, Page 30

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.

세월호 침몰 사고 수사가 진행되면서 해운업계 비리가 끝없이 불거지고 있다. 곳곳에서 '관피아(관료 마피아)'의 썩은 냄새가 진동을 하고 있다. 이번엔 해양경찰청 정보수사국장이 과거 세모그룹에서 근무한 기독교복음침례회(세칭 구원파) 신자였다는 사실이 드러나 교체됐다. 도대체 어디에서부터 어디까지 손을 대야 할지 모를 지경이다.
세월호 침몰 원인을 수사 중인 검경 합동수사본부는 세월호가 침몰 당시 복원력을 유지할 수 있는 최대 적재량보다 3배 이상 많은 화물을 실었다는 사실을 확인했다. 세월호 1등 항해사에게서 “과적 단속을 피하기 위해 평형수(平衡水)를 줄였다”는 진술도 받아냈다. 이에 따라 화물을 과다 적재하도록 한 청해진해운 물류팀장과 해무팀 이사를 체포해 업무상 과실치사 혐의로 조사 중이다. 더 놀라운 건 인천경찰청이 세월호 출항 당일 CCTV를 분석한 결과 화물 목록에 없던 굴삭기 세 대 등 중장비들이 더 실려 있었다는 것이다. 세월호는 사실상 여객선이 아니라 화물선이었던 셈이다. 세월호 침몰과 함께 같은 청해진해운 소속의 오하마나호 운항이 중단된 뒤 인천~제주간 물동량이 급감했다는 사실에서도 그간 과적이 얼마나 일상화돼 있었는지 알 수 있다. 문제는 안전 운항 관리를 점검해야 할 해운조합이 왜 이런 사실을 따져보지 않았느냐는 것이다. 해양수산부가 해운사들을 대표하는 해운조합에 안전 관리를 맡겨놓고도 제대로 감독하지 않은 것 역시 비정상적이다. 해수부와 해수부 관료 출신이 38년째 이사장을 맡아온 해운조합, 해운업계의 커넥션에 주목하지 않을 수 없다.
실제로 인천지검 해운비리 특별수사팀은 선박 사고 관련 보험금을 지급하는 과정에서 해운사들에게서 리베이트를 받은 혐의로 해운조합 사업본부장을 체포했다. 선박 안전 검사를 맡고 있는 한국선급의 비리를 수사하는 부산지검 특별수사팀도 한국선급 전·현직 임원들이 해수부 공무원 등에게 상품권 등 금품을 제공한 정황을 잡고 관련자 소환에 들어갔다. 선박회사 이익단체인 한국선주협회의 경우 지난해 국회의원 연구단체의 크루즈 해외여행을 지원한 것으로 밝혀지면서 정·관계 로비 의혹까지 제기되고 있다. 해운 비리 수사의 초점이 ‘해피아(해수부 마피아)’로 좁혀지는 양상이다.
박근혜 대통령은 관피아를 추방하겠다고 선언했다. 그렇다면 이번 해운업계의 검은 커넥션부터 샅샅이 파헤쳐야 할 것이다. 관피아가 자신들의 배를 채우는 차원을 넘어 국민의 생명과 안전까지 위협하고 있다. 이런 상황을 되풀이하지 않으려면 "관피아의 뿌리를 들어내겠다"는 검찰과 정부의 흔들림 없는 자세가 필요하다.
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