Yoo’s wife questioned after her arrest

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Yoo’s wife questioned after her arrest


Kwon Yun-ja, the wife of Yoo Byung-eun, walks into the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office on Saturday for questioning. [NEWSIS]

A joint team of police and prosecutors grilled the wife of the fugitive de facto owner of the sunken Sewol ferry’s operator after it arrested Kwon Yun-ja on Saturday over suspicions that she embezzled corporate funds to help her son evade arrest.

Both her husband, Yoo Byung-eun, and her eldest son Yoo Dae-gyun remain on the country’s most wanted list on charges that they allegedly mismanaged the Chonghaejin Marine Company, the operator of the ship. The two men also stand accused of various financial irregularities.

Authorities said Kwon appeared to be keeping contact with her eldest son, though she didn’t contact her husband as frequently as her son.

The arrest is the latest in a series of prolonged efforts to pursue the two fugitives and apply pressure by arresting their family members and close aides.

So far, six family members and relatives - including the older brother of the 73-year-old Yoo - have been detained or questioned over their potential connections with him.

Kwon, 71, was apprehended in an apartment in Bundang, Gyeonggi. Yoo and their oldest son were nowhere to be found, however, according to the investigation team.

Investigators said they also found 110 million won ($107,684) worth of cash in her room, which was apparently going to be used to aid the men in their escape. Also found were notes and her cellphone.

In addition, two women who are presumed to be members of the Evangelical Baptist Church, the religious sect founded by the elder Yoo, were present at the residence.

The head of a direct sales affiliate, Dalgubeol, Kwon is suspected of having siphoned off company money to fund the two men’s escape. She is also accused of tampering with funds reserved for missionary work by the Evangelical Baptist Church.

Kwon is currently being detained for further questioning, as investigators assume she may hold clues about the whereabouts of the two suspects.

During the investigation, prosecutors found that Kwon stayed in contact with her son Dae-gyun even while he was avoiding investigation.

Investigators believe that Kwon’s arrest may persuade Yoo and his son to turn themselves in. The search for the elder Yoo and his son picked up momentum after two key adherents were arrested earlier this month. The two female suspects, in their 60s and 50s, provided testimony that led to the eventual arrest of Oh Gap-ryeol, a brother-in-law of Yoo Byung-eun.

The women said that Oh, a former ambassador to the Czech Republic, drove Yoo out of the religious sect’s official compound, known as Geumsuwon, on April 23 after police surrounded the vicinity.

“When we questioned Oh, he testified that Yoo’s family and followers funded and gave him information about the authorities’ movements,” said a prosecutor, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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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