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Sewol owner’s female aide detained in U.S.

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Published : 2014-09-05 12:58
Updated : 2014-09-05 16:43

U.S. investigators have captured the late Yoo Byung-eun’s former key female confidante Kim Hea-kyung at a location in Virginia State, the Ministry of Justice said Friday.

Kim Hea-kyung

Kim Hea-kyung, the head of Hankook Pharm Co. -- a core unit of Chonghaejin Marine Co. -- has been residing in the United States since the April 16 Sewol sinking disaster without responding to a summons from the prosecution.

She allegedly had an affair with the irregularity-ridden Yoo Byung-eun, while Kwon Yoon-ja is the legal widow of Yoo, who died at age 73. There are speculations that two children, both in their teens, of Kim and Yoo reside in the U.S. though she is legally single.

Kim, the 52-year-old Hankook Pharm chief, has reportedly held an influential stake in several major units of Chonghaejin Marine, the operator of the sunken ferry Sewol.

According to Seoul investigators, Kim’s properties in Korea and abroad are estimated to range between at least 10 billion ($9.8 million) won and 400 billion won.

Observers raised the possibility that there could be a tough power struggle after the April 16 accident among key devotees of the Salvation Sect, which was led by the late Yoo and closely linked with Chonghaejin Marine.

Yoo, who was found dead in a southern port city on June 12, and some of his ex-aides have been on suspicion of glossing over the vessel safety and pocketing huge company funds and offertories, raised by the religious sect's devotees.

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

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