Late Sewol owner’s son given 3-year prison term
The Incheon District Court yesterday sentenced Yoo Dae-gyun, the eldest son of the late business tycoon who owned the company that operated the Sewol ferry, to three years in prison for embezzling 7.3 billion won ($6.7 million).
The verdict came nearly four months after he was found on July 25 in a hideaway south of Seoul, ending his three months on the run.
Yoo was apprehended three days after a badly decomposed corpse found the previous month in Suncheon, South Jeolla, was identified to be that of his father.
Yoo Byung-eun, the patriarch of the family, stood accused of embezzlement, tax evasion and irresponsible business practices that ultimately led to the Sewol ferry’s sinking in April. The elder Yoo effectively owned the Chonghaejin Marine Company, which operated the doomed passenger ship.
The court also found Yoo Byung-ho, the younger brother of the late shipping tycoon, guilty of embezzling company funds and sentenced him to two years in prison.
Yoo Byung-il, 75, the late magnate’s older brother, received a one-year jail term with a two year stay of execution on the same charge.
“The defendant misappropriated billions of won, taking advantage of his status as Yoo Byung-eun’s son, in the name of salaries and loyalty payments. Considering the amount of financial damage the defendant inflicted on the company, a stern punishment is inevitable,” the presiding judge said in the deliberations for Yoo Dae-gyun.
The prosecution had initially sought a four-year-jail term for him.
The court said it took into consideration the fact that Yoo Dae-gyun had no prior criminal record and had expressed remorse over some of the charges.
The court also handed down prison terms ranging from two to four years to four other defendants who were found guilty of having misappropriated company funds and aiding Yoo Byung-eun in his evasion of authorities during a massive nationwide manhunt.
Nine other defendants all received jail terms with a two or three year stay of execution.
Prosecutors sought to convince the court that rampant embezzlement by the Yoo family and their associates contributed to the April 16 sinking. Various business irregularities stripped Chonghaejin Marine Company of the necessary funds it needed to adequately train its crew and safeguard its vessels, the prosecution argued.
The Sewol ferry sank in waters off Jindo County, South Jeolla, leaving more than 300 people dead.
Actress Jeon Yang-ja, whose real name is Kim Kyung-sook, 72, was also found guilty of embezzlement and breach of trust and received a one-year prison term suspended for two years.
Jeon was the head of two of the group’s affiliates: the co-director of Geumsuwon, the headquarters of a pseudo-religious sect co-founded by the late Yoo; and a member of board of directors for I-One-I Holdings, the holding company of Chonghaejin Marine Co.
BY KANG JIN-KYU, YOON HO-JIN [email@example.com]