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SEWOL DISASTER: Police believe ferry owner died from hypothermia

Publication Date : 20-08-2014


Investigators on Tuesday raised the possibility that Yoo Byung-eun, the late owner of the Sewol ferry, died from hypothermia.

During a news briefing over the whereabouts of the late Yoo, who was found dead in a South Jeolla Province city by a farmer on June 12, the police dismissed the possibility that the fugitive could have been murdered.

“No clue or evidence that would back up the scenario that Yoo Byung-eun’s death was due to a crime has been found,” investigators said in a briefing at the Suncheon District Prosecutors’ Office.

Though the police estimated that Yoo could have died from hypothermia, they again failed to determine the cause of his death despite extraordinary investigation into the case and searches around Suncheon, where his corpse was discovered.

Investigators only cited opinions from some forensic doctors, who said it was feasible that Yoo died a natural death in the wake of low temperatures after hiding on a mountain by himself.

Police, however, failed to explain whether Yoo was intentionally deserted by his aides as his initial getaway was allegedly made with key devotees of the Salvation Sect, which was led by the Sewol owner.

Some pundits allege that there has been a power struggle among core leaders of the Salvation Sect, particularly after the April 16 sinking disaster. They stressed that the law enforcement authorities should continue to probe into the sect, which is considered to be financial malfeasance-ridden heresy.

They suggested that the police as well as the prosecution might have given up tracing the irregular economic arrangements of Yoo, who had reportedly glossed over the weakened safety of the Sewol ferry, by only arresting his oldest son Dae-kyoon and some aides at home.

The prosecution has yet to capture any family members or confidants of Yoo overseas. This includes Yoo Hyuk-kee, 42, the Sewol owner’s second son, and Kim Hea-kyung, 52, head of Hankook Pharm Co., a key unit of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the business group that operated the Sewol.

Commentator Hwang Tae-soon stressed that taxpayers would bear the burden of making up for a variety of damages from the April 16 sinking disaster if the prosecution gives up tracing Yoo’s wealth hidden in borrowed accounts.

He said the authorities should freeze more assets held by Yoo’s family and the Salvation Sect to hold them accountable for the disaster, which was reportedly triggered by a reckless expansion of cabins.

There are allegations that Chonghaejin Marine had offered kickbacks to a variety of agencies in an attempt to conceal the expansion and garner a certificate of ferry operation. The Sewol operator is also suspected of engaging in dubious cross-funding with its subsidiaries and affiliates.


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