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 Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid