Yoo remains on run as oldest daughter arrested

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Yoo remains on run as oldest daughter arrested

The oldest daughter of Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the operator of the doomed ferry Sewol, was arrested in Paris, the Korean Ministry of Justice said yesterday.

Yoo Seom-na, the first daughter of the 73-year-old patriarch, was arrested by French authorities in Paris, the ministry added. Accused of tax embezzlement involving former affiliates of her father’s company, she will be extradited to Korea as soon as possible in cooperation with French authorities, it added.

Prosecutors also confirmed yesterday that fingerprints of the elder Yoo and his followers suspected of aiding him in his escape were found at a shuttered restaurant in Suncheon, a southwestern coastal city in South Jeolla.

“We obtained fingerprints of Yoo and other people who were his followers helping him escape [from police] at a venue where he was assumed to have been hiding,” said an official with the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office’s special investigation team, which has been working to track down Yoo and his eldest son, Yoo Dae-gyun, over the mismanagement of the Chonghaejin Marine Company, the operator of the sunken ferry.

The restaurant where Yoo was hiding out has since closed down and was provided as a refuge by a couple who were adherents of the Evangelical Baptist Church, better known as Guwonpa or the Salvation Sect, a Christian cult founded by the troubled business tycoon.

The one-story building is inconspicuous, and the couple was running another restaurant just 300 meters (328 yards) away from the hideout.

On Sunday, prosecutors said they arrested a 33-year-old woman, surnamed Shin, who was allegedly running away with Yoo and staying there. The woman, who was also an adherent of his church, was found without him by prosecutors in the defunct eatery with several suitcases, water bottles and a Bible. She was suspected among several believers in aiding Yoo’s escape, prosecutors said, providing food and water to him in Suncheon city.

“After confirming his fingerprints, we are narrowing our search and focusing on Suncheon,” a prosecution official said.

Prosecutors also arrested Lee Jae-ok, chairman of Hemato-Centric Life, a health and medical equipment provider, on suspicion that he orchestrated Yoo’s overall escape plan.

He was known to have played a key role in opening the church to reporters on May 18 and holding a press conference there.

While investigating the Yoo family’s assets, prosecutors have since launched another probe into local agricultural associations and the Korea Green Club, both of which are assumed to be owned or managed by the patriarch’s family.

The prosecution has currently confirmed that seven agricultural associations were directly linked with the Yoo family. The Korea Green Club, an environmental civic group, was founded by Guwonpa members and reportedly received 13,260 square meters (3.27 acres) of land from the Chonghaejin Marine Company at no cost.

BY LEE KA-YOUNG, KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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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