News / Asia

    S. Korea Ferry Family Boss Eludes Biggest, Most Bizarre Manhunt

    An Evangelical Baptist Church believer shouts slogans against the government as police officers stand guard in font of believers sitting by the main gate of the church in Anseong, South Korea, June 11, 2014.
    An Evangelical Baptist Church believer shouts slogans against the government as police officers stand guard in font of believers sitting by the main gate of the church in Anseong, South Korea, June 11, 2014.
    Reuters
    South Korea's biggest and most bizarre manhunt, linked to a ferry disaster in which hundreds drowned, has come full circle at the compound of a sect known for its organic ice cream as police on Thursday used earth movers to search for tunnels.
     
    Police have raided the grounds of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Anseong, a two-hour drive south of Seoul, twice as they try to flush out church co-founder Yoo Byung-un, 73, South Korea's most wanted man since the Sewol ferry sank in April killing more than 300 people, mostly children from the same school.
     
    But, so far, Yoo, a businessman and photographer who was once jailed for fraud, has eluded capture in a case which has become an embarrassment for authorities already under pressure for their handling of the disaster.
     
    Yoo is wanted on charges of embezzlement, negligence and tax evasion stemming from a web of business holdings centered on I-One-I, an investment vehicle owned by his sons that ran the shipping company, Chonghaejin Marine.
     
    Chonghaejin owned the Sewol which sank off the southwest coast on April 16 on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to the southern holiday island of Jeju.
     
    Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers from the same school. Only 172 people were rescued and the remainder are all presumed to have drowned.
     
    The hunt for Yoo, who once held a photographic exhibition at the Louver in Paris, has sent authorities chasing leads from the sect compound to remote towns in southwestern Jeolla province - and back again to the compound.
     
    The latest raid began on Wednesday and involved 6,000 police and investigators. Besides Yoo and one son, prosecutors said they were looking for two middle-aged female sect members known as “mamas” accused of helping him escape. Dogs roamed the compound sniffing for scent from Yoo's belongings.
     
    Last month, police arrested a man on suspicion that he delivered organic food grown and marketed by the church to Yoo, as well as one of his drivers. Some church members handed out ice cream to police and journalists on Wednesday. Others  threatened to fight police.
     
    One said church members would protect Yoo.
     
    “I don't know where he is, but he won't turn up until everything is clear about why the ferry sank,” a man who said he had been a sect member for 30 years, told Reuters outside the compound.
     
    “I respect him as a mentor. He is our fellow believer and we will protect him.”
     
    Desperately seeking Yoo
     
    Authorities have offered a half-million-dollar reward for Yoo, the maximum allowed for an individual in a criminal case, and quietly enlisted the military, a sensitive subject in a country where memories remain vivid of troops mobilized to suppress democracy movements from the 1960s to the 1980s.
     
    Police said they believe Yoo and one son are still in the country. Another son is based in the United States and his whereabouts could not be established By Reuters.
     
    “We haven't received information that they have stowed away or left for somewhere. We believe we can capture Yoo and his son,” Lee Sang-won, commissioner of the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency, said.
     
    Yoo's daughter, Yoo Som-Na, has been held in France since May 28 after Interpol called for her arrest “for fraud and embezzlement”. She was denied bail on Wednesday.
     
    There have been no charges against Yoo directly related to the ferry disaster, although prosecutors are trying to establish a link between the financial charges and the sinking.
     
    Fifteen members of the ferry's crew are on trial on charges ranging from homicide to negligence after they were caught on video abandoning ship as the children stayed put in their cabins.
     
    Enlisting the military's help in the hunt shows just how desperate the government is to catch Yoo and satisfy an outraged public's demand for accountability.
     
    “Basically in the south and west, the units based there have been looking out for people illegally entering, especially at night,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a news briefing. “Related to that, there's a chance Yoo Byung-un may try to secretly flee, so guard duties are focused a little more on people being smuggled out.”
     
    Fatigue has become a factor as the manhunt drags on, with about a dozen investigators photographed sprawled out napping in a gym inside the Anseong compound during Wednesday's raid.
     
    President Park Geun-hye this week said “it made no sense” that such a massive search operation had come up empty, and some sect members suggested the raid was staged to placate a bloodthirsty public.
     
    Yu Chang-seon, an independent political commentator, said the search was excessive, expressing a minority view in a country still in mourning.
     
    “Considering the charges against Yoo, this is basically a financial case,” he said. “We should be holding him responsible to some degree, but the scale of the whole thing is unprecedented.”

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora