Owner ignored ferry’s problems: S Korean prosecution

Owner ignored ferry’s problems: S Korean prosecution
A policeman hands out posters of the wanted Yoo Byung-eon and his eldest son Dae-gyun to passersby in downtown Seoul on Monday.

S Korea - Investigators said Monday that Yoo Byung-eon, the de facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, was found to have glossed over critical problems with the stability of the refurbished vessel.

According to the prosecution, Kim Han-shik, the chief of Chonghaejin Marine Co. ― the operator of the Sewol ― notified Yoo of the risks of overloading it with freight early this year. Kim reportedly pointed out the ferry's weakened ability to recover left-and-right balance when tilted due to an extension in the number of cabins several years ago.

The prosecution, accordingly, is poised to cite "homicide by negligence" in its coming application of criminal law against the ferry owner. Yoo has been specified as the "chairman" on the payroll of Chonghaejin Marine.

Five staffers including Kim of the marine company had already been indicted for this type of culpable homicide.

Investigative agencies say many religious followers of Yoo, former chief of the now-defunct Semo Group, will eventually desert the de facto owner of Sewol, while the Salvation Sect, which is allegedly led by Yoo, has continued to stress the power of their unity.

The Salvation Sect on Monday expressed its strong support for Yoo, despite investigators' full-fledged effort to capture the fugitive, suspected of have engaged in a variety of business irregularities.

In its news conference at Geumsuwon, a religious compound in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, the sect said in a statement that "100,000 devotees will protect Yoo Byung-eon. We will not hand over Yoo Byung-eon (to investigators) even if all of the 100,000 followers are seized."

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