Police head quits to take responsibility for Yoo probe

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Police head quits to take responsibility for Yoo probe

National Police Agency head Lee Sung-han yesterday tendered his resignation, taking responsibility for the police’s botched attempt to arrest 73-year-old businessman Yoo Byun-eun, the de facto owner of the Chonghaejin Marine Company, which operated the doomed Sewol ferry.

“I think my duty has ended here and now,” Lee said yesterday at a press conference after submitting his resignation to the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. “As the chief of the agency, I will leave and embrace all responsibility that the police should take for the various problems [that occurred during the investigation].”

Yoo’s body was found on June 12, heavily decomposed and rotting in a plum orchard in Suncheon, South Jeolla. However, authorities only discovered 40 days later that the corpse did, in fact, belong to the fugitive billionaire.

The police chief’s resignation came hours after President Park Geun-hye criticized the belated discovery of Yoo’s body. “Someone needs to take responsibility for [this case],” she said earlier yesterday in a Cabinet meeting.

“Despite the fact that there were several personal items near the body in the place where it was initially discovered that could have been used to infer the identity [of the corpse], the prosecution and the police paid no heed to them and continued their search for 40 more days,” she said. “They wasted a huge amount of the state budget and lost the public’s trust.

“The person responsible for this should [step up and take responsibility],” she said, without pinpointing a specific person.

During the Cabinet meeting, Park also called for a thorough investigation into allegations surrounding the abrupt death in April of a young Army conscript who was found to have endured continuous physical and sexual abuse and harassment at the hands of his fellow soldiers.

She further urged “exemplary punishment” for all those involved in the case.

“I feel terrible when I think about [the soldier’s] bereaved family, who lost their child in an accident that should have never occurred,” she said. “Repeating these accidents … is also a deep-rooted evil that has lasted for too long. We must fix this as part of overall reforms for the country.”

The comments were her first public remarks on the scandal since she returned from her summer holiday last week.

Six soldiers from the Army’s 28th Division have been charged with deliberately beating and sexually abusing the 23-year-old private, identified only by his surname Yun, who abruptly died on April 6 at his barracks after being beaten by his superiors.

“Over the past few decades, these kinds of accidents have occurred in the military, and [the government] has vowed to fix them every time they have happened,” the president said, “but they are still being repeated.”

“I want you to root out the possibility of this kind of accident being repeated by seeking out anyone who may have been responsible as an exemplary punishment and investigating all the assailants and others who assisted in the crime,” she said.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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