News / Asia

South Korean Lab: Autopsy of Ferry Owner Inconclusive

South Koreans march during a rally 100 days after the sinking of the Sewol ferry in Seoul, South Korea, July 24, 2014.
South Koreans march during a rally 100 days after the sinking of the Sewol ferry in Seoul, South Korea, July 24, 2014.
VOA News

South Korea's forensic agency said on Friday it was impossible to determine the cause of death of a businessman linked to a ferry that capsized and killed more than 300 people in April.

An autopsy and DNA tests on the badly decomposed body of Yoo Byung-eun revealed no evidence that he was poisoned, Seo Joong-seok, head of the state-run National Forensic Service, told a news conference.

Yoo, the target of the country's largest manhunt, was found dead in an orchard on June 12. Police identified his body this week.

“We are aware there are many questions and did our best, but it was impossible to determine the cause of death,” an agency official, Lee Han-young, told the news conference.

The autopsy found no evidence of trauma from a weapon or strangulation, although there was heavy decomposition damage to the tissues in the head and neck, Lee added.

Nationwide manhunt

At first, local police had no idea it was Yoo's body and a nationwide manhunt for the reclusive billionaire had continued for six weeks before DNA and fingerprint evidence revealed the corpse's identity.

Yoo was the patriarch of the family that owned and operated the Sewol ferry which sank April 16 with the loss of around 300 lives -- mostly schoolchildren.

After Yoo ignored repeated summonses for questioning over lax safety standards and regulatory violations, state prosecutors had offered a $500,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Several empty bottles of alcohol found near his body prompted speculation that he had committed suicide, but state forensic experts said toxicity tests had come back negative 

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.

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