Veteran actress linked to Sewol corruption probe

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Veteran actress linked to Sewol corruption probe

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Jeon Yang-ja

A celebrated veteran actress is suspected of being a close ally with the owner family of the beleaguered operator of the sunken Sewol ferry and holding executive positions in the operator’s affiliates as well as a religious institution linked to that family.

Kim Kyung-sook, better known by her stage name Jeon Yang-ja, faces a travel ban and is expected to be summoned for questioning over corruption allegations involving Yoo Byung-eun, the family’s patriarch, and his two sons, according to the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday.

Born in 1942, Kim is a well-known actress and has appeared in more than 40 soap operas.

The ban is part of a widening investigation into allegations that Yoo committed financial irregularities to collect slush funds. A joint investigation team of prosecutors and police officers is currently focused on verifying whether the alleged misconduct contributed to the sloppy safety management of the Chonghaejin Marine Company, which operated the Sewol.

Prosecutors allege that Kim aided in misappropriating company funds while closely being engaged in the management of the family’s businesses.

The investigators of the Incheon office yesterday embarked on tracking down the bank accounts of the actress in order to examine any financial transactions connected to the Yoo family.

Kim is the head of a video production affiliate as well as a religious facility for a pseudo-Christian cult headed by the 73-year-old Yoo.

The production company, Kukje Yeongsang, appears to have close connections with the ferry operator, because Kim Han-sik, the president of Chonghaejin currently under interrogation, serves as an auditor to the production subsidiary.

The elder Yoo held a 28.8 percent stake in the video production company until 2009.

The 72-year-old actress serves as the president at an organic food sales affiliate and is registered on the board of directors of I-One-I Holdings, the operator’s holding company.

The organic grocery store, known as Noreunja Shopping, operates in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul.

A staff member of the grocery store confirmed that Kim is the head of the store.

“She arranged food and products until January and showed up almost daily,” said the employee, who wished to remain anonymous. “But when she was working on a drama, she came here only once a week.”

Besides her business-related roles, Kim is also suspected of playing a key role in promoting a controversial pseudo-Christian cult led by Yoo. Prosecutors said that Kim is now the managing director of a religious facility called Geumsuwon in Anseong, Gyeonggi.

The complex is known to encompass various restaurants, shops and even an amusement park, services that are exclusively available for believers. Members of the religious group often gather there to pray together, and nonbelievers are banned from visiting.

Yoo is accused of forcing members to invest in the companies he and his sons operate.

The group came into the public eye in 1987, after Yoo was investigated over allegations that he was behind the mass murder-suicide of 32 religious believers.

At that time, he served as the minister of the cult.

Kim publicly admitted to being a devout believer during a press conference in 1991.

In the face of the allegations brought up against her, Kim denied any wrongdoing.

“I will participate in the questioning as frankly as I can,” she said on Monday.

“I have nothing to hide and I would not avoid any request for questioning by the prosecutors,” she added in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo.

She has not turned up to film scenes for a drama in which she currently stars. MBC, the broadcasting company, said that it will make a decision on whether to drop her later.

BY PARK EUN-JEE, MIN KYUNG-WON [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]


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.

Correction

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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