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Secret measure to arrest Yoo Byeong-eon

Posted June. 05, 2014 05:34,   


Yoo Byeong-eon, former chairman of the now-defunct Semo Group who provides the fundamental cause for April’s tragic sinking of the ferry Sewol, is still at large. From the starting point of April 20 when prosecutors started investigation into Yoo after the fatal ferry disaster, 45 days have passed. As the June 4 local elections drew near, even rumors surrounding Yoo have been widespread. The rumor included that prosecutors did not catch Yoo even knowing his whereabouts, or are coordinating timing for Yoo’s arrest to ensure that his arrest could become a variable that is favorable to the ruling party in the final days of the election campaign.

Prosecutors have been criticized for not having arrested Yoo despite their sharp brains, which would make them naturally feel furious. There was no such case wherein prosecutors knew Yoo’s whereabouts but have failed to arrest him, nor has there been the miracle of arresting him at the “appropriate timing” right before the election day.

To arrest Yoo and his aides, the prosecutorial and police investigation team is mostly using two different ways of tracing a passenger vehicle that is suspected as having helped him, by checking all closed circuit TV in the given region, and tracing the location of his mobile communications. As for the CCTV-based tracing method, if authorities type in the vehicle license plate number at the toll booth on expressway in advance, the passing of the vehicle in question is automatically checked and verified. In this method, if any signs are discovered suggesting that the vehicle passed through a certain location, authorities thoroughly inspect all CCTVs in surrounding the area and find the path of moves. However, time difference inevitably entails because not all alleys across the nation are currently equipped with a high-performance CCTV that enables authorities to clearly identify the vehicle even at night, and because the method used here is basically designed to trace Yoo. This is because even if the authority confirms trace left by the vehicle carrying Yoo leaves, this is only possible after some time.

The situation is the same with mobile phone communication records and GPS tracking. Even if authorities discover a mobile phone owned by a follower of his religious sect who is assisting Yoo, checking telephone record or tracking the location alone is just a method in which they only trace the fugitive. They can only recognize that Yoo is staying near a relay station where radio frequency is monitored, but it is impossible to pinpoint his hideout. If Yoo senses signs in advance, turns off the mobile phone or throws it away, the authorities have no choice but to immediately halt investigation.

People say that “Yoo is flying while prosecutors are running,” but it is natural. As Yoo is on the run amid systematic assistance by his followers who are united under religious belief, it is not that easy to arrest him even by mobilizing hundreds or even thousands of prosecutors or policemen. Rumors say that after learning that the location of mobile phone is traced, followers are reportedly exchanging communications each other with radios. Knowing the weaknesses of the law enforcement authorities, Yoo has been on the run in an intelligent way.

Hence, experts say that the government should reexamine eavesdropping of the mobile phone service anew going forward. Only through mobile phone wiretapping, the authorities will be able to find clue to forecast in advance where Yoo is headed, before arrest can be made. Eavesdropping of mobile phones has become a matter that is completely tabooed, after the National Intelligence Service was caught for engaging in illegal eavesdropping in 2005.

It is an unthinkable imagination, but if a terrorist who owns a small-scale nuclear weapon, is on the run like Yoo, what would happen? Can we afford to guarantee that there will never be such an incident in Korea where public security is solid? It is ill-advised to completely ban the use of this measure, even though there is possibility for crime that could damage many of the Korean people. Pope Francis will visit Korea in August, and the Incheon Asian Games will open in September. The authorities face a situation where it has to cope with a terrorist attack that may or may not happen. If the slogan “mobile phone wiretapping cannot be discussed” can be considered a conventional social agreement, now is time to reconsider it. It is not completely out of the question, if the scope of people wiretapped is strictly limited, and if strong control measure is put in place, including imposing of up to 100 years in prison for illegal wiretapping.

In any case, we wonder if Yoo cast his ballot in this year’s local elections. It is out of the question since he is on the run. “This bad guy has skipped exercising his voting right and is only implementing the right to run away.” This is a complaint by a senior prosecutor.