FaithWorld

Thousands raid South Korea church in futile search for ferry family boss

By Reuters Staff
June 11, 2014
(A mourner cries as she pays tribute, at a temporary memorial altar for victims of the capsized passenger ship Sewol, in Ansan April 26, 2014. The Sewol ferry sank on April 16 on a routine trip south from the port of Incheon to the traditional holiday island of Jeju. More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers from one high school on a field trip, have died or are missing and presumed dead. REUTERS/Issei Kato)

(A mourner cries as she pays tribute, at a temporary memorial altar for victims of the capsized passenger ship Sewol, in Ansan April 26, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato)

Thousands of South Korean police and prosecutors raided a sprawling religious compound for a second time on Wednesday in their search for an elderly businessman linked to a ferry disaster that reduced the nation to tears.

Helicopters flew overhead as officers moved from building to building at the site, believed to cover the size of a dozen soccer pitches, with church members in pursuit, some singing hymns, others chanting “Let’s fight with prosecutors and police!”

But the businessman, Yoo Byung-un, also a photographer who was once jailed for fraud and is now South Korea’s most wanted man, was nowhere to be found.

Yoo, in his 70s, co-founder of the church which owns the website www.god.com, is wanted on charges of embezzlement, negligence and tax evasion stemming from a web of business holdings centred 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.

The raid cameĀ a day after President Park Geun-hye, whose government was sharply criticised over its handling of the disaster, said “it made no sense” that such an extensive search operation had failed to catch Yoo.

Church members grow organic produce, run a fish farm and hold religious services. Yoo is believed to keep a photography studio inside. As the search operation went ahead, some church members handed out organic ice cream to police and journalists in the sweltering heat.

Read the full story by Ju-Min ParkĀ here.

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