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.

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