The absconding YoosThe 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.
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.