Arrest the Yoo family

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Arrest the Yoo family

Three weeks have passed since the prosecution put the fugitive Yoo Byung-eun, de facto owner of the sunken Sewol ferry, and his first son, Dae-gyun, on the wanted list. Even though the first trial for Lee Jun-seok, the captain of the ferry, and his 14 crew members has begun, the prosecution cannot find the truth behind the unfathomable disaster without arresting Yoo and his family. Citizens are increasingly frustrated over the prosecution’s futile attempts to locate the suspects’ whereabouts.

A joint prosecution-police team again raided Geumsuwon - a religious compound in Anseong, Gyeonggi, of the Salvation Sect that Yoo founded - after being rebuked by President Park Geun-hye for failing to catch the fugitives. Despite mobilization of military forces to arrest them, law enforcement authorities still have trouble catching them due to their failures in arresting Yoo’s close aides, who are believed to have helped him escape. We could expect to hear he has been successfully smuggled into another country soon.

In the trial for Sewol captain Lee and his crew, who are accused of murder and other serious criminal charges at Gwangju District Court, a public defender attributed the unparalleled maritime disaster to the shipping company Chonghaejin Marine, saying Lee could not have been involved in overloading the ferry with cargo as he was working as a part-time skipper at the time of the sinking. The lawyer also said that other crew members cannot be held accountable for the loss of hundreds of passengers - mostly high school students - because “they simply followed the Coast Guard’s order to get out of the ship.” Relatives of the victims in and around the court cried out, “Why didn’t you tell our children to jump out of the ship?”

Without direct investigation into the Yoo family, the law enforcement authorities cannot tell the whole truth behind the tragedy, not to mention bring them to justice. The disaster resulted from the greed of the Yoo family, the aberrant operation of the shipping company, the utter irresponsibility of the crew and the fatal dereliction of duty among maritime authorities. The prosecution must quickly arrest the Yoo family to find the truth. Under such circumstances, Yoo’s escape disqualifies him both as a religious leader and businessman.

As President Park said, it is hard to understand why law enforcement agencies cannot locate Yoo and his offspring. Even after Geumsuwon was singled out as a “control tower” to help Yoo flee, they failed to catch his helpers. The clock is ticking. If Yoo’s escape is prolonged, the prosecution and police must take responsibility. We urge all involved to settle the case as soon as possible.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 12, Page 34

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.

검찰이 유병언(전 세모그룹 회장)씨와 장남 대균씨를 지명수배한지 3주를 넘기고 있다. 세월호 선장과 선원들에 대한 첫 재판이 열렸지만 유씨와 그 일가의 신병을 확보하지 않고는 실체적 진실을 밝히기 힘든 상황이다. 세월호 참사의 진상규명이 대체 언제까지 헛돌아야 하는지 답답한 노릇이다.
검찰과 경찰은 어제 기독교복음침례회(일명 구원파)의 본산인 경기도 안성시 금수원에 21일 만에 재진입했다. 박근혜 대통령이 검·경을 향해 “(유씨를) 이렇게 못 잡고 있는 것은 말이 안 된다”며 질타한데 따른 것이다. 이제는 육·해·공군 병력까지 동원돼 유씨 검거에 총력을 기울이고 있다. 하지만 검·경이 금수원에서 유씨 도피를 지원해온 핵심 조력자 체포에 실패하는 등 유씨 검거는 계속 난항이다. 이러다간 그가 어느날 해외로 밀항했다는 소식이 들려오는 게 아닌지 불안하기만 하다.
문제는 이준석 선장 등 세월호 선원 15명에 대한 재판이 본격화되고 있는데 있다. 그제 광주지법에서 열린 재판에서 살인 등 혐의로 기소된 이 선장의 국선변호인은 “임시 선장에 불과해 사고 원인인 과적 등에 개입할 여지가 없었다”며 책임을 선사(船社)인 청해진해운으로 돌렸다. 다른 선원들도 “해경 지시로 퇴선했을 뿐”이라며 형사책임을 과도하게 질 순 없다는 입장을 밝혔다. 이런 선원들의 무표정한 얼굴에 희생자 유족들은 “대피 안내 방송은 할 수 있지 않았느냐”며 절규했다.
세월호 재판은 실질적인 배 주인인 유씨 일가에 대한 조사 없이는 관련자들에 대한 사법처리는 물론 진상규명도 반쪽 짜리에 머물 수밖에 없음을 보여주고 있다. 세월호 침몰은 유씨 일가의 탐욕과 청해진해운의 무리한 선박 운영, 선원들의 무책임한 행태, 선박을 점검해야 할 당국의 책임 방기 등이 함께 어우러져 일어난 것이기 때문이다. 따라서 정확한 진상을 밝히기 위해서는 무엇보다 유씨와 그 일가의 신병 확보가 필수적이다. 이런 상황에서 구원파 신도들을 방어벽 삼아 도피 행각을 계속하고 있는 그들은 기업인·종교인으로서의 기본적 자격을 잃었다고 본다. 지금이라도 스스로 국민 앞에 나와 수사에 협조하는 것이 최소한의 도리다.
박 대통령 지적대로 검·경이 대규모 인력을 투입하고도 유씨를 검거하지 못하는 현 상황은 납득이 가지 않는다. 금수원이 유씨 도피의 컨트롤타워 역할을 하고 있다고 지목한 뒤에도 일주일 이상 머뭇거리다 핵심 조력자를 놓치고 말았다. 그동안 유씨 관련 정보가 제대로 공유되지 않는 등 검찰과 경찰의 공조도 유기적이지 않았다. 시간이 많지 않다. 만약 유씨 도주가 더 장기화한다면 검·경 모두 문책을 피할 수 없을 것이다. 세월호 침몰 진상규명은 단순히 관련자 처벌을 위한 것이 아니다. 유족의 눈물을 닦아주고 제2, 제3의 세월호를 막기 위해 반드시 필요한 과정이다. 세월호 참사에 책임 있는 당사자들은 모두 진상규명을 위해 노력해주길 촉구한다.
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