Salvation Sect raided once again
The move came a day after President Park Geun-hye chastened investigators for failing to locate Yoo Byung-eun, the 73-year-old patriarch of the family that owns the operator of the ferry that sank on April 16, killing 292 and leaving 12 unaccounted for.
More than 4,000 police officers entered Geumsuwon, the headquarters of the Evangelical Baptist Church, better known as the Salvation Sect, in Anseong, Gyeonggi. Yoo co-founded the church with his father-in-law in 1962.
Helicopters, ambulances and water cannons were dispatched in case of any emergencies or physical clashes, though no serious clashes took place.
Three weeks have passed since the joint forces embarked on a nationwide pursuit for Yoo and his elder son Yoo Dae-gyun.
Among the six arrested men, four were on the wanted list for aiding a criminal suspect while one was apprehended for questioning.
The sixth was arrested for obstructing police in the exercise of their duties.
However, the search team failed to find two key female aides who are believed to have played a major role in keeping Yoo out of grasp of the authorities.
But it confiscated a card used to pay highway tolls and an ID card from one of them, a 59-year-old woman surnamed Kim.
The other suspect is a 64-year-old woman whose surname is Shin.
Prosecutors allege that the two followers raised funds and ordered other adherents to provide shelters for Yoo’s escape.
There were no major clashes yesterday, but a representative of the sect criticized the raid.
“Police were already inside Geumsuwon even before they presented their warrants,” said Lee Tae-jong. “This can fall into the category of unlawful entry. And they searched Geumsuwon at their will without us accompanying them.”
A series of failed attempts to capture Yoo prompted President Park to express concern at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
“I know the prosecution and the police are trying hard to apprehend Yoo,” said Park, “but it doesn’t make sense they could not catch him after all this time.”
The president went so far as to say that the authorities “should review their way of pursuing Yoo and check whether there might be other means so that they can ensure that Yoo is brought to justice.”
This is the second time the authorities raided the religious compound. A team of prosecutors and police forced its way into Geumsuwon to arrest Yoo and his eldest son Dae-gyun on May 21 but came away empty-handed.
Prosecutors allege that the patriarch has been involved in different financial irregularities such as tax evasion and embezzlement. They also think that Yoo is covering up unfair or risky business practices such as excessive overloading that compromised the Sewol and led to the tragedy.
The investigation into the disaster involves different parties including the crew of the ship, high-ranking officials of Chonghaejin, safety inspectors and the family behind the beleaguered operator.
Yoo’s family has evaded arrest, but Yoo’s daughter Som-na was arrested in France. His second son Hyeok-gi is presumed to live in the United States.
The prosecution last month raised the rewards for the tips on Yoo and his eldest son’s whereabouts to 500 million won ($492,000) and 100 million won.
BY PARK EUN-JEE, LIM MYUNG-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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.
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.