Police narrow search for fleeing Yoo to Suncheon

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Police narrow search for fleeing Yoo to Suncheon

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Policemen yesterday inspect every vehicle passing through Suncheon, South Jeolla, where the police are hunting for Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken Sewol’s operator Chonghaejin Marine Company. By Oh Jong-chan

The Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office’s special investigation team sought a warrant yesterday to detain Lee Jae-oak, chief of the Hemato-Centric Life Foundation, on charges of helping Yoo Byung-eun, the businessman behind the company that owned and operated the Sewol ferry, evade arrest.

The 49-year-old CEO, who worked as a professor at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, Gyeonggi, was arrested on Monday for giving substantial assistance to Yoo in his escape, including supplying him with food, a mobile phone under a borrowed name and getaway vehicles, prosecutors said.

Lee, an adherent of the Evangelical Baptist Church, more commonly known as Guwonpa, or the Salvation Sect, a Christian cult Yoo found and ran, is also suspected of embezzling foundation funds.

Officials assume that Lee is in a position of leadership in the sect given that he led its press conference last Sunday at its compound in Anseong, Gyeonggi.

Meanwhile, tips on Yoo’s whereabouts have risen dramatically to roughly 30 a day in Suncheon, South Jeolla, after the 73-year-old patriarch was found to have been in the area on Sunday, an officer from the Suncheon Police Precinct said.

Although some local news outlets reported that strangers were flocking to the southwestern city in hopes of winning the reward of 500 million won ($491,000) for details on Yoo’s whereabouts, the officer replied he wasn’t “so sure” about an incoming mob, implying that most of the tips the police precinct have received are from local residents.

When he was asked whether the tips are helping to find Yoo, the officer answered with a bitter “No, not really.”

The reward was raised from 50 million won ($49,000) on Sunday after critics argued the initial amount was too little.

The reward for serial killers is usually 50 million won.

Authorities are boosting their search in Suncheon, with approximately 1,500 officers searching around the shuttered Korean restaurant where traces of Yoo were last found.

Prosecutors are dispatching manpower to adjacent areas as well such as Gurye County, Boseong County, Jindo County and Yeosu, all located in South Jeolla.

As the search for missing passengers on the Sewol ferry continues in the southwestern sea, 288 have been found dead while 16 remain unaccounted for.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [selee@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.

Correction

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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