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Sunken ferry owner’s wife placed on wanted list

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Published : 2014-06-19 21:16
Updated : 2014-06-19 21:16

Investigators have alleged that the wife of fugitive Yoo Byung-eun, the owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, is hiding out with her oldest son in the southern part of the nation, according to prosecutors on Thursday.

The Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office said it has recently put Kwon Yoon-ja on the nation’s most wanted list, which already contains Yoo and their son, Dae-kyun.

Kwon is a daughter of the late pastor Kwon Shin-chan, who reportedly created the Salvation Sect with Yoo Byung-eun, his son-in-law. While the sect leaders claimed that it was an evangelical Baptist church, it had been labeled as heretical by the denomination.

Kwon has been under suspicion of pocketing company funds of a sister firm of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of the ill-fated Sewol, and funds raised by devotees of the Salvation Sect. Investigators said she was estimated to have embezzled as much as 1 billion won ($952,000).

She has been the CEO of a door-to-door sales company in Daegu, and police have raised the possibility that Kwon is hiding out with her son in the metropolitan city, or in one of the Gyeongsang provinces.

Earlier this month, her younger brother and Yoo’s brother-in-law, Oh-kyun, was taken into custody for similar charges of embezzlement.

Kwon Oh-kyun was working for the Chonghaejin group as chief of Trigon Korea, a core affiliate of Chonghaejin Marine Co. He is also one of the key leaders of the sect.

Though an extraordinary investigation team ― composed of about 80 prosecutors and policemen ― is striving to arrest Yoo and his family, the law enforcement agencies have come under public criticism for failing to do so, one month into the effort.

Some are questioning the intention or willingness of the prosecution to arrest the fugitives, who are thought to have been involved in the ferry disaster, business irregularities and dubious practices while leading the religious group.

More and more pundits and netizens say that the investigation team should be replaced and the National Assembly should reprimand the Justice Ministry through parliamentary inspections.

The prosecution, however, has arrested Yoo’s older brother, Byung-il, and some of Yoo’s aides ― for colluding in his misdoings or masterminding his flight from the police ― via raids on Geumsuwon, a compound of the sect south of Seoul, and other locations over the past few weeks.

Another female confidante, surnamed Kim, of the 73-year-old runway was taken into custody on Wednesday.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)

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