Probe into death of S Korean ferry owner restarts from square one

Probe into death of S Korean ferry owner restarts from square one
Policemen transport a stretcher with a body believed to be that of Yoo Byung-un, who headed the family that owned the operator of a ferry that capsized in April, killing more than 300 people, into an ambulance at a hospital in Suncheon July 22, 2014.

S. KOREA - The police said it would reinvestigate the cause of runaway Yoo Byung-eun's death from square one as fresh allegations have been raised, even after the state forensic agency's autopsy on the 73-year-old's body.

Investigators hinted Tuesday at the probe's setback despite the surrender of key aides of the late Yoo, the Sewol ferry owner who was found dead by a farmer on June 12.

A news outlet has alleged that the farmer, who owns a plum orchard in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province, was not the first to find Yoo's body.

The TV news outlet claimed that a witness in the provincial city discovered Yoo's body sometime before June 12, which is when the plum orchard owner reported it to police.

Further, a kitchen knife was recently discovered in front of a vacation home in Suncheon, dubbed the Reminiscence in the Forest, where Yoo reportedly hid with his aides from April to May.

Currently, police are facing public criticism for cutting the grass with sickles where Yoo's corpse was found. This came after some criminal profilers and netizens cast doubts over the state of the grass, which was the same colour both underneath and surround the decomposing body.

Lawyer Yeo Sang-won said it could be regarded as evidence destruction by the law enforcement authority.

Some profilers are suggesting the scenario that the body was moved to the plum field from somewhere shortly before its discovery. A critic pointed out that the grass beneath the body was not bleached to support this.

While the National Forensic Service said it failed to determine the cause of Yoo's death due to the corpse's heavy decay, more pundits and profilers are cautiously raising the possibility that Yoo could have been murdered.

After the autopsy, forensic officials said it seemed unlikely that Yoo died in a physical assault. They added, however, that it was difficult to determine if his death was due to suffocation or strangling, reiterating that few soft tissues remained.

Rep. Park Jie-won of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has raised the fresh allegation that Yoo's body was not in fact discovered on June 12.

Lawmaker Park cited recorded testimonies of several residents around the farm, who claimed that the body was initially found "sometime in April."

On Tuesday, Yang Hoi-jeong, the former chauffeur of the deceased, gave up himself to the prosecution.

During prosecutors' interrogation, Yang reportedly said that he had failed to meet or talk with Yoo Byung-eun after seeing him on May 23 or May 24.

His surrender came a day after his wife Yoo Hee-ja, 52, and Yoo Byung-eun's former aide Kim Myung-sook, 59, turned themselves in to law enforcement authorities.

Yang, 55, had been hiding out in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, according to the Incheon District Prosecutors' Office.

The prosecution has clarified its stance that it would investigate Yang and the two aides "without detention."

The three figures were suspected of masterminding the escape of the late ferry tycoon Yoo. He had been on the most wanted list since the April 16 Sewol sinking disaster.

On Monday, an Incheon court issued arrest warrants for Yoo Dae-kyoon, the oldest son of the late billionaire, and Park Soo-kyung, an aide of Dae-kyoon.

The Incheon District Court held the warrant hearing to review the documents proposed by the prosecution and approved the issuance, citing fears that the junior Yoo, 44, and Park, 34, may flee or destroy evidence.

The court also endorsed the warrant for another of Dae-kyoon's aides, Ha Bo-eun, 35, for concealing the two suspects.

Dae-kyoon is suspected of embezzling funds worth 9.9 billion won from Chonghaejin Marine Co. and its subsidiaries.

Park has been under investigation for providing Yoo with hideouts after the ferry disaster.

The junior Yoo and Park were captured by police at Ha Bo-eun's residence in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, last Friday.

By Kim Yon-se (

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.