A funeral ceremony was held on Sunday for Yoo Byung-eun, the owner of the sunken ferry Sewol who was found dead in a southern port city on June 12, at a religious stronghold in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province.
The irregularity-ridden Yoo was buried on a hill at the Salvation Sect's compound Geumsuwon. The sect, which had been led by the late business tycoon, is the de facto owner of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the Sewol.
The burial of Yoo, who died at 73, is likely to aggravate difficulties in revealing both the cause of his death and retrieving the illicit wealth of Yoo's family and confidants. They are presumed to be accountable for the April 16 sinking disaster due to their alleged mismanagement of Chonghaejin Marine and glossing over of vessel safety.
Some pundits and netizens denounced the investigative authorities, including the prosecution, police and state forensic agency, for handing over Yoo's body to the Salvation Sect after halting their probe into allegations surrounding his death.
Some of them lamented that the key allegation involving Yoo's irregular lobbying activities for the privileged class could be entombed with his body.
"(From now on), it will be impossible to reveal the cause of Yoo Byung-eun's death," lawyer Kim Tae-hyun said, adding that the forensic officials should have conducted further autopsies until they found some clue. Kim, a graduate of the Korean National Police University, has claimed that Yoo was murdered.
Earlier in the day, Choo Kyung-ho, the chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, said the government would thoroughly push to recoup the hidden wealth of Yoo's family.
"Otherwise, taxpayers will shoulder the burden of making up for damages (including compensation for victims' families) worth more than 600 billion won ($582 million)," he said during a vice ministers' meeting.
While members of Yoo's family including his eldest son Dae-kyoon and widow Kwon Yoon-ja attended the two-day funeral, some of the sect's key members including Kim Hea-kyung, head of Hankook Pharm Co. ― a core sister firm of Chonghaejin Marine ― did not attend.