Yoo investigators find cash, pistolsAuthorities investigating close aides to Yoo Byung-eun, the late businessman behind the operation of the Sewol ferry, said yesterday that they found five pistols and 1.5 billion won ($1.45 million) in cash at the residence of a relative of Kim Myung-sook, a 59-year-old woman who is believed to have aided in the elderly tycoon’s escape.
The Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday that it had questioned the relative on how she had acquired the weapons and money, adding that it will summon Kim again to determine whether she had handed them over.
The pistols were not loaded, officials confirmed, though dozens of rounds of ammunition and lead beads were found with the guns.
Kim, better known as Kim Eomma, or Mother Kim, is known to have worked at Geumsuwon in Anseong, Gyeonggi, the headquarters of the Evangelical Baptist Church, a religious sect Yoo co-founded in 1960s with his father-in-law.
Kim turned herself in on July 28, shortly after it was announced that a dead body found in a field in Suncheon, South Jeolla, more than a month earlier, belonged to Yoo.
She and another accomplice, Yoo Hee-ja, 52, voluntarily appeared together at the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office three days after authorities issued a declaration stating that they would not detain them if they turned themselves in to the prosecution by the end of the month.
Prosecutors said the cash was found in two out of five bags that were discovered yesterday. Each was tagged with numbers - 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8. One billion won was found in bag No. 2, while another half billion was found in bag No. 6.
The prosecution believes the sacks are the ones that were missing from Yoo’s villa in Suncheon, South Jeolla, when it was raided on June 27. Only two bags, Nos. 4 and 5, were found that day, and contained 830 million won as well as $160,000 in cash.
Authorities added that the pistols were uncovered in bag No. 7, while bag Nos. 3 and 8 held Yoo’s personal belongings. Bag No. 1 is still unaccounted for.
The 73-year-old businessman carried 2 billion won in cash while he was on the run and even bought the villa in Suncheon that was later searched for about 250 million won. However, it is likely that Yoo carried more than 2 billion won, given that one more bag remains missing and the total amount uncovered to date adds up to 2.5 billion won.
The prosecution suspects Kim took over orchestrating Yoo’s flight after Hemato-Centric Life Chairman Lee Jae-ok - thought to have organized Yoo’s escape plan - was apprehended on May 27.
Authorities believe Kim then played a critical role in finding and preparing Yoo’s hideouts and coordinating related personnel.
Kim is known to have run a restaurant near Geumsuwon and prepared meals for Yoo Byung-eun and the church’s adherents while serving on the religious sect’s food team.
BY KIM BONG-MOON [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.