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.

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