The absconding Yoos

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The absconding Yoos

The de facto owner of the sunken Sewol ferry, Yoo Byung-eon, refuses to cooperate in the investigation of the accident. He is obviously trying to avoid very expensive legal accountability for the tragic disaster. Yoo and his family are making a big mistake if they think they are above the law.

A special investigation team at the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office ordered Yoo to appear in their office at 10 a.m. Friday to clear up all the questions. The prosecution made the decision because Yoo and his offspring didn’t comply with earlier summons. The core members of the family, including Yoo’s second son and first daughter, both of whom reside abroad, refuse to be questioned by the prosecution. His oldest son, who lives in Korea, has disappeared despite the prosecution’s repeated summons. Prosecutors raided a religious training camp run by Yoo in Anseong, Gyeonggi, but had to return empty-handed without discerning the whereabouts of Yoo or his oldest son.

Given the Yoo family’s earlier promise to cooperate with the prosecution’s investigation, the sudden about-face raises serious doubts about whether they are trying to obstruct justice and whether they will use their foot-dragging to give them time to destroy evidence. Yoo’s children living abroad could seek asylum claiming religious persecution. Their father leads a maverick sect of the Baptist Church. But such a strategy cannot help but further tangle this Gordian knot. What’s most urgent is finding out what really happened. The fact that Yoo has been receiving a monthly payment of 15 million won ($14,677) from Chonghaejin Marine Company, the operator of the sunken ferry, and that Yoo’s oldest and second oldest sons are among the largest shareholders of I-One-I Holdings, a holding company of Chonghaejin, strongly suggest a very close connection between the family and the ferry. Moreover, if Yoo was involved in the remodeling of the ferry to carry more passengers or in the practice of overloading cargo, he can be accused of unpremeditated homicide.

The arrests of the CEOs of his subsidiaries and the disappearance of Yoo and his family demonstrate the weirdness of Yoo’s empire. Shipping industry experts believe he vanished in order not to bear the huge cost of compensations to the victims and their families. Investigations of the Yoo family are necessary for social justice. Yoo and his family can hide for a while, but they cannot cover up the evidence forever.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 14, 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.

침몰한 세월호의 실질적인 선주(船主) 유병언(전 세모그룹 회장)씨 일가가 검찰 수사를 완강하게 거부하고 있다. 세월호 침몰 참사의 법적 책임을 인정하지 않으려는 의도로 보인다. 유씨 일가가 법 위에 있다는 착각에 빠진 것 아닌지 묻지 않을 수 없다.
유씨 일가와 관계사들의 비리 의혹을 수사 중인 인천지검 특별수사팀은 유씨에 대해 '16일 오전 10시 소환'을 통보했다. 검찰은 유씨와 그 자녀들에 대해 “검찰에 자진 출석해 국민적 의혹을 해소하고, 사법절차에 적극 협조하면서 방어권을 행사하라”고 밝혔다. 검찰이 이례적으로 수사 협조를 촉구한 것은 유씨 자녀들이 줄줄이 소환 조사에 불응하고 있기 때문이다. 앞서 유씨의 후계자로 지목된 차남 혁기씨와 장녀 섬나씨 등 자녀들과 핵심 측근들은 해외에 체류하며 소환에 응하지 않고 있다. 장남 대균씨도 그제 검찰 소환에 불응한 뒤 잠적한 상태다. 수사팀이 유씨와 대균씨가 있는 것으로 알려진 경기도 안성의 금수원을 찾아갔으나 소재 파악도 못한 채 돌아왔다.
유씨 일가의 이 같은 모습은 사고 초기 검찰 수사에 적극 협조하겠다던 입장과 상반된 것이다. 시간을 끌면서 말을 맞추거나 증거를 없애는 등 조직으로 수사를 방해하려는 것 아니냐는 의심을 받을 수밖에 없다. 해외에 있는 유씨 자녀들이 종교(기독교복음침례회·구원파) 탄압을 이유로 망명을 신청할 수 있다는 분석도 나온다. 그러나 이런 ‘버티기 전략’은 사태 해결에 도움이 되지 않는다. 지금은 진상 규명이 시급한 상황이다. 유씨가 세월호 운영사인 청해진해운으로부터 급여로 매달 1500만원을 받았다는 사실, 장남과 차남이 청해진해운 지주회사 격인 아이원아이홀딩스의 최대주주라는 사실은 그들 일가가 세월호 침몰과 무관치 않다는 증거다. 더욱이 유씨가 청해진해운 경영에 참여한 수준을 넘어 선박 증축이나 상습 과적 등에 관여했다면 업무상 과실치사죄 적용도 가능하다.
계열사 대표 등이 구속되고 있는 와중에 자신들만 몸을 빼내 잠적하고 있는 것은 얼마나 비정상적인 처신인지를 우리에게 보여준다. 해운업계에선 수천억 원에 달할 보상비·인양비 등을 부담하지 않으려는 것 아니냐는 지적이 나오고 있다. 무리한 운행으로 얻은 수익은 챙기고 손해는 사회로 분산시키려 한다는 얘기다. 탐욕의 단물만 빼먹겠다는 유씨 일가의 행태에 대해 우리 사회는 그 어느 때보다 단호하게 대처할 필요가 있다.
유씨 일가에 대한 수사는 사회정의를 지키는 차원에서 반드시 필요한 과정이다. 유씨 일가는 이제라도 당당하게 조사에 협조하는 것이 희생자·실종자 가족과 국민에게 속죄하는 길이다. 몸은 숨길 수 있어도 탐욕이 남긴 증거들은 숨길 수 없다. 검찰도 더 이상 머뭇거리지 말고 강제수사를 통해 실체적 진실을 밝혀내겠다는 의지를 보여야 한다. 지금 국민들이 눈을 부릅뜨고 유씨 일가와 검찰 수사를 지켜보고 있음을 명심해야 할 것이다.
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