This is not religious persecutionMore than 2,000 devout followers of a maverick Christian sect supposedly led by Yoo Byung-eun, the de factor owner of the Chonghaejin Marine Company, the Sewol ferry’s operator, were virtually in a war against law enforcement officers’ imminent entry last weekend into Geumsuwon, their compound, in Anseong, Gyeonggi. Forming a human barricade in front of the complex, hundreds of them chanted combative slogans: “Stop religious persecution!” and “We will fight with martyrdom!” Yoo is presumed to be hiding in the compound.
Prosecutors are not interested in the dogma of the radical faction. They merely seek to question Yoo and his eldest son over breach of duty, embezzlement and tax evasion allegations involving the shipping company. More than 300 passengers - mostly high school students on a field trip to Jeju Island - were killed in the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry last month.
The indigenous Christian faction partially exposed the mysterious compound to the press yesterday before denying Yoo’s connection to the sect and his status as its leader. If their words are correct, an investigation of a person who has nothing to do with the faction does not constitute religious persecution. Moreover, an official of the sect told reporters that Yoo was inside the compound, which the man later denied. The prosecution only needs to confirm whether Yoo is there.
Everyone is equal before the law. The Christian sect must help law enforcement officers to investigate Yoo so that he can potentially clear himself of false charges, if there are any. That’s the only way to resolve the mounting suspicion among the public. If the group continues to claim religious persecution, it will only help to intensify Yoo’s connection to the sect. According to a few members of the Christian faction, Yoo often delivered pro-government sermons in the 1980s and ’90s, underscoring the importance of honoring the incumbent power. If that’s the case, there is no reason for his supporters to follow the double standards Yoo himself adopted.
Yoo’s avid followers are ridiculing the authority of the law enforcement agency at a rally in front of the religious compound. Prosecutors must bring him to justice by raiding the complex without fearing that they are persecuting believers.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 19, Page 34
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.