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Associate Accused of Aiding South Korea Ferry Owner Arrested

  • Reuters

The image of Yoo Byung-eun, owner of the sunken ferry, on a television at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea, July 22, 2014. Police say a badly decomposed body found in a field last month was that of the fugitive billionaire blamed for April's ferry

The image of Yoo Byung-eun, owner of the sunken ferry, on a television at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea, July 22, 2014. Police say a badly decomposed body found in a field last month was that of the fugitive billionaire blamed for April's ferry

A close associate of the man whose web of business holdings included a ferry that sank and killed more than 300 people in April was arrested on Monday, a week after the ferry owner's badly decomposed body was identified.

The woman, who was believed to have been instrumental in helping Yoo Byung-eun elude South Korea's largest manhunt, turned herself in on Monday. Police identified her only by her last name, Kim.

Another woman, the wife of Yoo's driver who was thought to have been with him during his final days at large, also turned herself in to police.

The ferry Sewol capsized on a routine trip on April 16, one of South Korea's worst civilian maritime disasters. Many of those killed were children from the same school on a class trip.

The detention of the two women, confirmed by a prosecutor, comes as some of the students who made it out of the ferry alive were due to take the stand at the trial of 15 crew members who fled the vessel.

Passengers on board the ferry, many of them children, had been told to stay on board while it was sinking.

Crew on trial

The 15 surviving crew members, including the captain, face charges ranging from homicide to negligence for abandoning the ship ahead of the passengers. Video footage of their escape triggered outrage across South Korea.

Yoo heads the family that owned the ferry operator.

His associate, Kim, had been wanted for helping Yoo evade arrest. Her arrest came three days after police stormed an apartment on the outskirts of Seoul and found Yoo's elder son, Dae-gyun, who was wanted for embezzlement.

Yoo Dae-gyun is one of two sons who co-owned the holding company at the center of a network of business interests that included the ferry operator.

He was not believed to have been as actively involved in management as his younger brother, who is believed to be in the United States.

Yoo Dae-gyun said he only learned of his father's death from police.

A badly decomposed body found by a farmer at an orchard last month was identified only six days ago as that of Yoo Byung-un.

An autopsy and DNA testing failed to show how he died and how he came to be at the site where he was found because of extensive decomposition.

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