Yoo must bear his cross

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Yoo must bear his cross


Yoo Byung-eun, the alleged owner of Sewol operator Chonghaejin Marine Company and a self-proclaimed leader of a Christian sect, is heading in the opposite direction of the path Jesus followed.

The 73-year-old seems to be in good condition. The fifth-grade Taekwondo black-belt holder has left the Geumsuwon residence he lived in for years and has been on the run for more than 20 days now. His escape from Geumsuwon and his refugee attempts are all very unusual.

The path Yoo has taken is pathetic. The police said, “Yoo had promised to cooperate with the investigation, but he abandoned his status and sense of honor as a religious leader and a tycoon and is at large like a common criminal.”

When police investigators stormed into his vacation house in Suncheon, all they could find were water bottles and a Bible. The Salvation Sect, which Yoo had led, cites Bible verses to propagate their beliefs, and many of the cult members are known to be intellectuals. But Yoon was in such a hurry that he left his Bible behind.

Yoo is supposed to be a man of power. After the Odaeyang mass suicide in 1987, his Semo Corporation filed for bankruptcy. But using loopholes in the legal process, he not only took back most of his subsidiaries but also expanded his business further. His company was supported by catchy ideas, business tactics and the devotion of 100,000 believers across the country. With the offerings contributed by believers, he founded a farming cooperative producing and distributing organic products. Using experience operating cruises on the Han River, he got into the passenger ferry business, becoming a major ship owner. His path has been far from ordinary. While living in seclusion in Geumsuwon and making money in business, he used the pseudonym Ahae and held photography exhibitions.

His finale was disobeying a prosecution summons and taking flight. The prosecutors’ tactics were to investigate his children first and collect solid evidence, summoning Yoo last. But he rejected common sense. When his three children, Dae-gyun, Gyeok-gi and Seom-na, disobeyed their summons and hid, he also ran. Now he claims that the public authority is repressing religious liberty. The longer Yoo hides, the worse the situation will be for him. The prosecutors will begin to feel more anxious than Yoo.

But if Yoo believes he is innocent, he should respond to the summons and clarify his position. He has now become prey for bounty hunters. He should abandon the way of a runaway and bear his cross. He should make the abnormal normal. In the Last Supper, Peter asked Jesus, “Where are you going?” Yoo must know what it really means.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 6, Page 30

*The author is a deputy national news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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.

예수님이 걸어갔던 사랑과 희생의 길과는 정반대다. 청해진해운 유병언 회장이 지금 걷고 있는 '도망자'의 길 말이다. 73세의 유 회장은 노익장을 과시하고 있다. 태권도가 5단이라지만 수십년간 은둔했던 금수원을 떠나 20여일 넘게 객지에서 도주하는 것 자체가 고난일 것이다. 특히 금수원 탈출, 비밀 별장 은신, 변장, 차량 도주, 교란, 잠적, 현상금, 밀항, 망명 시도로 이어지는 행태는 정상을 벗어나 보인다.
한 기독교 분파의 지도자가 스스로 선택한 길로 보기에는 초라하다. 오죽하면 그를 쫓는 검찰이 "수사에 적극 협조하겠다던 유 회장이 종교지도자와 그룹 회장이라는 신분과 염치를 헌신짝같이 내팽개친 채 뿌리없는 흉악범처럼 도망중"이라고 질타했을까. 그가 은신했던 순천의 별장 '숲속의 추억'에 들이닥친 검찰 수사관들이 현장에서 생수병과 함께 덩그마니 남아있는 '성경책'을 발견했다는 소식은 우리를 슬프게 한다. 구원파는 성경 구절을 인용하며 포교를 해 신도중엔 지식인들이 적지 않다고 하는데 너무나 급한 나머지 포교의 근간인 성경책까지 두고 간 것 같아서다. 유 회장은 '능력자'다. 1987년 오대양 집단자살 사건 이후 직격탄을 맞은 세모그룹은 부도를 맞았다. 하지만 법정 관리의 허점을 이용해 대부분의 계열사들을 도로 되찾은 것은 물론, 그 이전보다 규모를 키웠다. 기발한 아이디어와 사업 감각, 전국에 산재했다는 10만 성도들의 헌신 덕분이었다. 신도들의 헌금을 기반으로 유기농 제품 생산-유통을 위한 영농법인을 설립, 운영했다. 한강유람선을 운영했던 세모 때 경험을 토대로 연안여객선 사업에도 은밀히 진출해 대(大)선주가 됐다. 하지만 그가 살아온 길은 '정상'과는 거리가 있었다. 금수원에 은둔하며 돈을 버는 동시에 '아해'라는 익명으로 해외에선 초호화 사진전시회를 열었다. 세월호 침몰 사고 이후 한번도 모습을 드러내지 않은 것도 비정상이다.
검찰 소환에 불응하고 달아난 것은 비정상의 피날레다. 검찰은 자녀들부터 조사해 카드를 확보한뒤 유 회장을 마지막에 불러 압박하려는 전략을 짰다. 하지만 유 회장은 상식을 파괴했다. 장남 대균씨, 차남 혁기씨, 장녀 섬나씨 등 소환통보를 받은 세 자녀가 모두 도피하자 유 회장도 몸을 숨겼다. 지금은 인의 장막을 치고 공권력의 종교 탄압이라며 맞서고 있다. 도주가 길어지면 쫓는 자와 쫓기는 자의 처지가 역전된다. 쫓기는 유 회장보다 쫓는 검찰이 조바심이 나게 됐다. 철저히 대비하지 못한 검찰 책임도 크다. 하지만 죄가 없다면 검찰에 출두해 당당히 입장을 밝히면 될 일이다. 스스로 현상금 사냥꾼들의 먹잇감으로 전락해서야 되겠나. 유 회장은 지금이라도 도망자의 길을 버리고 십자가를 져야 한다. 그래야 비정상의 정상화가 이뤄진다. 최후의 만찬 때 베드로가 예수님을 향해 물었다. '쿼바디스 도미네(Quo Vadis Domine·주여, 어디로 가시나이까). 이 의미를 유 회장이 모르지는 않을 것이다.
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