Yoo requests embassy in Seoul to aid his asylum

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Yoo requests embassy in Seoul to aid his asylum

Authorities pursuing Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken Sewol ferry, yesterday discovered that the 73-year-old has asked an unknown embassy in Seoul for political asylum.

“We found out that an unidentified person visited an embassy in Korea and requested Yoo’s asylum,” said a prosecutor of the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office’s special investigation team. “We heard the embassy has denied the request, citing that he is only a criminal.”

Under the United Nations agreement, a refugee is a person outside their own country’s territory who has the right to seek asylum because of fear of persecution over race, caste, nationality, religion, political opinions or membership, and participation in any particular social group or social activities.

The prosecutor added, “Yoo can’t be eligible for political asylum given that he is only a criminal, and we requested for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain this to foreign countries’ embassies in Korea.”

When asked which country Yoo has asked to give him asylum, the prosecutor answered, “We cannot disclose the nation due to diplomatic problems, but we can tell you it is only one country.”

As the missing Yoo is supposedly on the run with the help of believers from the Evangelical Baptist Church, the Christian sect he founded, which is better known as Guwonpa, or Salvation Sect, prosecutors are also trying to round up those who helped Yoo and his eldest son Yoo Dae-gyun escape.

The prosecution reportedly received an arrest warrant for a 58-year-old devotee of the sect, who is known only as Kim Eomma, or Mother Kim. She is thought to be the leader of a female believers’ group and is under suspicion of orchestrating the escape of the two runaways with the aid of Lee Jae-oak, the 49-year-old head of Hemato-Centric Life Foundation. Lee was arrested by the prosecution last week.

Prosecutors assume Mother Kim is at Geumsuwon, the sect’s religious compound in Anseong, Gyeonggi, and that she has provided general support to the two fugitives, ranging from providing goods to supplying financial support.

The prosecution also did not rule out the possibility that more believers of the religious sect aided Yoo or that he has returned to the compound.

Having heard that the prosecution might search Guwonpa again, the sect has made it clear that they won’t let the prosecution step into Geumsuwon.

“We have decided in the meeting that we cannot open the door without legitimate reason,” said a spokesperson of the sect. “The prosecution isn’t trying to negotiate and we don’t even expect it to.”

When the joint investigation team of police and prosecutors last tried to enter Geumsuwon, the religious compound resisted the search. It finally opened its doors to the prosecution on May 25, nine days after the authorities first issued a search warrant.

BY KIM BONG-MOON[bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]
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