Tracking down the Yoos

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Tracking down the Yoos

The de facto owner of the Sewol ferry Yoo Byung-eon, his sons and aides failed to comply with the prosecution’s summons to question them about possible wrongdoings that may have led to the tragic accident. Yoo, the former chairman of Semo Group and leader of a religious sect, defied the law enforcement order after all of his offspring similarly refused to cooperate with the state investigation. Prosecutors must act firmer and more quickly to bring the Yoo family to justice.

The special investigation team of the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office filed for a court warrant to indict Yoo on charges of embezzlement and tax evasion to prevent him from fleeing the country. Prosecutors earlier ordered Yoo to appear at the district office by 10:00 a.m. Friday, but he, like his children, refused to comply without offering any explanation. Prosecutors applied for a court warrant to detain Yoo because they fear he could discreetly leave the country, given the defiance of his children. They are also unclear about his whereabouts and his influence over company executives and employees, which could lead to destruction of or tampering with evidence.

Yoo is suspected of hiding at a religious retreat in Anseong, south of Seoul, owned by the Evangelical Baptist Church. A church spokesman said Yoo could appear at the front gate if he really was at the retreat. But he neither came out of the retreat nor appeared at the prosecutors’ office.

Nothing the Yoo family and its aides have said so far has been reliable. Soon after the ferry disaster, Yoo bowed his head and offered to donate his personal fortune as recompense. His sons also issued an apology. Yet their words were nothing but a way of buying time. It is pitiful that they are hiding behind religious worshipers in order to duck legal and criminal liabilities. Chonghaejin Marine has broken countless regulations and laws to run the ship beyond its age and capacity, using its shady connections with maritime inspectors, police and industry officials. The owning family encouraged routine overloading and reckless operations without any heed to public safety. As a result, hundreds of passengers - mostly students - have died. Yoo and his family must cooperate. They can exercise their rights as suspects during questioning. Law enforcement must act according to the law. The Yoo clan must be taught that they cannot hide from justice.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 17, 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.

세월호의 실질적 선주(船主)로 알려진 유병언(전 세모그룹 회장)씨가 검찰 소환에 불응했다. 그의 자녀와 핵심 측근들이 줄줄이 검찰에 나오지 않은데 이어 유씨까지 수사 거부 입장을 나타낸 것이다. 이제 검찰은 보다 적극적인 자세로 유씨 일가에 대해 법 원칙의 엄정함을 보여야 할 때가 됐다.
유씨 일가와 관계사들의 비리를 수사 중인 인천지검 특별수사팀은 어제 유씨에 대해 사전구속영장을 청구했다. 횡령·배임 및 조세포탈 혐의다. 유씨에 대한 영장 청구는 불가피했던 것으로 본다. 앞서 검찰이 유씨에게 어제 오전 10시까지 검찰에 출석하라고 통보했으나 유씨는 별다른 입장도 밝히지 않은 채 불응했기 때문이다. 검찰은 “자녀들의 연이은 불출석과 잠적, 계열사 임직원에 대한 유씨의 영향력 등에 비춰 도주 및 증거인멸 우려가 크다고 판단했다”고 설명했다.
당초 기독교복음침례회(속칭 구원파) 사무국 대변인은 지난 15일 금수원 앞에서 “유 전 회장이 금수원 내에 있다면 정문으로 나올 것”이라고 주장한 바 있다. 그러나 유씨는 어제 인천지검에 모습을 드러내지 않았다. 금수원 안에 없다는 얘기인지, 아니면 대변인의 말이 허언이었는지 허탈감을 자아내고 있다. “머리 숙여 사죄한다”는 유씨 두 아들의 사과문도, “법적·도의적 책임을 다하겠다”는 유씨 자신의 입장 발표도 시간 끌기에 불과했음이 드러나고 있는 것 아닌가. 신도들의 보호막 뒤에 숨어 있는 유씨 일가의 모습에 환멸만 느껴질 뿐이다.
세월호 운영사인 청해진해운과 유씨 일가의 검은 커넥션이 드러나고 있는 상황에서 더 이상 숨는 것은 의미가 없다. 더욱이 유씨가 상습 과적과 무리한 운항에 관여했다는 의혹까지 나온 마당이다. 지금이라도 유씨와 그 일가는 국민 앞에 나와 검찰 수사에 협조해야 한다. 피의자로서의 방어권은 조사 과정에서 행사하면 된다. 만약 유씨가 법원의 영장실질심사까지 거부한다면 검찰은 수사력을 총동원해 유씨 일가와의 전면전에 나서야 한다. 사법정의에 도전하면 어떤 결과를 낳는지 유씨 일가가 깨닫게 해줘야 할 것이다.
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