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