Investigators scour park for Yoo; 1 man arrested

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Investigators scour park for Yoo; 1 man arrested

Authorities chasing after fugitive Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken Sewol ferry, searched Always Jingle Bell Land, an amusement park in Anseong, Gyeonggi, yesterday after speculation arose that the 73-year-old tycoon may be hiding in a neglected motel in the park.

The children’s amusement park, which has a sledding slope and a swimming pool, is known to be owned by Yoo’s eldest son, Yoo Dae-gyun, 44, and is located next to Geumsuwon, the headquarters of the Evangelical Baptist Church. The sect was co-founded by Yoo Byung-eun and his father-in-law in the 1960s, and is better known as Guwonpa, or the Salvation Sect.

The investigators from the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office who came down to Anseong yesterday failed to find Yoo, but they did manage to apprehend a 35-year-old man surnamed Chu, who was on the wanted list. Chu, the son of a close aide of Yoo, is believed to have aided Yoo in his escape.

Chu’s father, 60, is currently in the custody of the prosecution after being arrested on May 24, at a villa where Yoo is thought to have stayed, for providing the fugitive tycoon food and necessities. The elder Chu is also known to be the head of the sect in the eastern region of South Jeolla and a director of Yoo’s tea-producing affiliate. Prosecutors conducted the search guided by Chu, who knows the park well.

Guwonpa said later yesterday that Chu was working on maintaining the park’s facilities when investigators stormed in and arrested him after it was confirmed that he was also on the wanted list.

Always Jingle Bell Land is known to be a setting for gatherings for the religious sect’s believers. On Sunday, the adherents held a forum there to try to determine the true reason behind the Sewol ferry accident, saying they could not accept the authorities’ explanation for the ship’s sinking.

Last month, the joint investigation team of prosecutors and police tentatively concluded that the ferry lost stability because of a lack of ballast water. Ballast water is used to keep ships steady during navigation. Authorities suspect the Chonghaejin Marine Company, the Sewol operator, which Yoo owns, intentionally did not fill the correct amount of water in the ballast tanks so that it could load more cargo.

On June 11, when the sect announced that it would hold the forum on Sunday, its spokesman, Jo Gye-wung, also said that Guwonpa would give 500 million won ($490,783) to anyone who finds out the truth behind the tragedy.

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