Updated July. 23, 2014 05:42
Yoo Byung-eon, the former head of the Semo Group, was found dead. Yoo, the real owner of Chonghaejin Marine, the sunken ferrys operator, had been a fugitive since April 20, four days after the ferry disaster. He was last seen on May 25 in the southwestern city of Suncheon, South Jeolla Province. While various rumors had milled around for two months since then, he was lying dead in a plum field. Although the arrest operation is done, prosecutors who have been focusing on Yoo to probe into the ferry accident are likely to be hit hard.
Yoos body was found 2.5 kilometers from the Songchijae rest area. Police first witnessed Yoo in a summerhouse near the rest area on May 25 and searched him with 8,100 people for 55 times to end up in vain. Around the dead body were an empty Squalene bottle and a bag emblazoned with Love like a Dream, the title of his book. Prosecutors and police did not pay attention to these crucial clues and spent 40 days to confirm his identity, treating it as a person who died a natural death. They wasted their investigation capacity for unnecessary searches and even mobilized military troops.
The failure to capture Yoo is another failure of the government authority, following the Coast Guard that failed to rescue people from the sinking ferry. Even after focusing on Yoo for investigation after the disastrous accident, prosecutors failed to locate him and gave him a chance to escape. They missed him even though they knew that he was hiding in his church complex in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province. Later, prosecutors and police could not cooperate in the course of tracking him and information kept leaking. Even after finding his body, they were complacent about confirming his identity. President Park Geun-hyes repeated orders to capture him sounded hollow.
Both prosecutors and police should clarify the cause of his death. He is said to have carried two billion won (194.6 million U.S. dollars) in cash in his bag. Money and a mobile phone, which are most needed for a fugitive, were not with the body. There is also a possibility that he could have been murdered by someone and moved to the place.
Yoo is on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence of all the affiliates that he actually owns. Due to the death of the key suspect, prosecutors have to prove the alleged charges of Yoos family and confidants without him. More efforts are needed to arrest his eldest son and repatriate his second son and his eldest daughter. Prosecutors should collect 105.4 billion won (102.5 million dollars) of his familys wealth by exercising the right to indemnity.
President Park said, I think it would not have been possible to create such wealth without the help of a group of people given various suspicions and illegal activities in the course of creating the familys wealth. It is natural to say so considering the privileges and favors that Semo and Chonghaejin received. While the families of the ferry victims are heartbroken, some would be relieved by Yoos death. Prosecutors should use all possible means to prevent Yoos death becoming a mystery and find those who helped him.