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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.