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S. Korea Police Search for Fugitive in Sinking Ferry Case

  • VOA News

Police officers detain a Buddhist believer near the main gate of the church in Anseong, South Korea, June 11, 2014.

Police officers detain a Buddhist believer near the main gate of the church in Anseong, South Korea, June 11, 2014.

Anseong, South Korea

Anseong, South Korea

Thousands of South Korean police raided a religious compound Wednesday in their search for a businessman wanted in connection with an April ferry sinking that killed over 300 people.

Yoo Byung-un is the head of a family that runs the Chonghaejin Marine Company, which owned and operated the Sewol ferry. The 72-year-old, who has evaded a nationwide manhunt for almost a month, is wanted on embezzlement, negligence, and tax evasion charges.

About 6,000 police officers, many in riot gear, stormed a large religious complex belonging to the Evangelical Baptist Church, where Yoo was a co-founder. After a brief standoff, police entered the facility, which is about 80 kilometers south of Seoul.

Police did not find Yoo, but instead arrested at least three church members who are suspected of helping him escape. It is the second time that police have raided the facility.

President Park Geun-hye, whose government has been criticized for its response to the ferry disaster, on Tuesday told her cabinet that Yoo must be brought to justice. Investigators are also determining whether lax safety standards and poor maintenance led to the disaster.

The raid comes a day after the trial began for 15 of the ship's crew that abandoned the sinking ship. The captain and three crew members face homicide charges and a possible death penalty. The 11 others face negligence charges.

Meanwhile, divers continue searching for victims in the submerged, 6,800-ton ferry. So far, 292 bodies have been recovered and 12 are listed as missing. Most of the victims of the April 16 ferry sinking were high school students on their way to a field trip on the resort island of Jeju.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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