Elusive Yoo family stumps investigators

The Korea Herald/May 14, 2014

By Choi He-suk

The eldest son of the sunken ferry Sewol’s owner Yoo Byung-eon was put on a nationwide wanted list Wednesday as the authorities sought a breakthrough in the investigation into the Yoo family.

Yoo’s eldest son, Yoo Dae-gyun is suspected of involvement in the long list of criminal activities, including tax evasion and embezzlement, that his family is alleged to have committed.

The younger Yoo had ignored the prosecution’s summons to appear for questioning Monday, and evaded being taken into custody Tuesday when authorities raided his home. The investigators suspect that Yoo Dae-gyun may have fled the country.

Along with Yoo Dae-gyun, his younger brother and sisters, as well as a number of the family’s close associates have chosen to ignore the summons. The Korean authorities are currently working to have Yoo Hyeok-gi, the younger son, and other suspects extradited from the U.S.

The prospects for questioning Yoo also appear slim, despite earlier projections that he will comply with summons due to his “social status.”

Faced with strong resistance from members of the Salvation Sect, a loosely Christian cult founded by Yoo’s family, the prosecution has so far failed even to meet with Yoo. Although he is thought to be inside a religious facility in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, the authorities have been held at bay by a large group of cult members who accuse the government of infringing upon their religious freedom.

The prosecution is also reported to have had no direct contact with Yoo, but informed him of the summons through “all possible means.”

As for the investigation into the cause of the accident, all 15 of the crew members who abandoned the sinking ship are to be indicted Thursday. Whether key crew members will be charged with murder or manslaughter has not yet been decided.

Meanwhile the search for the Sewol’s missing continues at a painfully slow pace hampered by rapid currents and collapsing internal structures.

According to the government’s response team, internal walls of the ship have been collapsing in recent days, blocking divers’ passage.

As of Tuesday, 23 of the 476 crew and passengers the ship was carrying remained missing. The death toll stands at 281.

The search efforts are set to be further slowed down by the spring tide, which is set to begin Thursday. Spring tide, unrelated to the season, refers to a period during which the differences in high and low tides increase along with the speed of the tidal currents.

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