Prosecutors issue stern warning to Yoo, his sons

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Prosecutors issue stern warning to Yoo, his sons

The Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office issued a stern warning to Yoo Byung-eun, the patriarch of the family who allegedly controls the company that operated the sunken Sewol ferry, saying that if he continues to disregard the rule of law and refuse his summons for questioning, the prosecution will make sure he and his sons face “the maximum legal penalty.”

Incheon prosecutors on a special investigation team at the Incheon office also said yesterday during an unexpected briefing that they would pursue Yoo and his sons “all the way to the end.”

The briefing is thought to have been prosecutors’ way of thwarting efforts by followers of a religious sect led by Yoo to paint the investigation as a persecution targeting the businessman and his church, the so-called Evangelical Baptist Church.

The warning against the Yoo family came two days after the 72-year-old ignored a summons by the prosecution Friday to come in for questioning over corruption and mismanagement allegations and the role he may have had in the ferry disaster. To press a defiant Yoo, the prosecutors requested a court to grant a pre-trial detention warrant for him, saying the tycoon could potentially flee or destroy evidence.

The court is scheduled to review the validity of the warrant request tomorrow. If the court grants the warrant, it is expected that prosecutors will raid a religious complex known as Geumsuwon in Anseong, Gyeonggi. The complex is the headquarters of the Christian sect led by Yoo.

Geumsuwon became a potential battleground over the past week as police and more than 1,000 believers confronted each other. Yoo is believed to be hiding in the facility, defying prosecutors’ summons.

The authorities have not attempted to penetrate the facility.

A senior prosecutor involved in the case told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that, “We gave the Yoo family another chance because they have their rights as citizens. But we will have custody of him within this week no matter what.”

When asked about the sect’s claim that prosecutors are waging a crusade against their religion, the official responded, “We are enraged by their claim. After all, we respected Yoo as a leader of a religious sect, and ensured the freedom of their religion at a maximum level.”


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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