Ferry Operator's Owner Ready to Give Away Fortune

The de facto owner of Chonghaejin Marine, which operated the ferry Sewol that sank off the southwest coast last week, denies he amassed enormous wealth while scrimping and saving on safety procedures.

A lawyer representing Yoo Byung-eon told the Chosun Ilbo on Thursday that reports that Yoo's assets total W240 billion are not true and he is only worth around W10 billion.

Son Byong-ki, claimed Yoo "has no financial ties to Chonghaejin or its subsidiaries."

Son said Yoo, a former chairman of Chonghaejin, has nonetheless "voiced his willingness to donate his entire W10 billion estate due to his deep sorrow for those who lost their lives aboard the Sewol."

The lawyer claimed Yoo did not commit himself more explicitly for fear of seeming to try and wriggle his way out of responsibility.

Yoo and his two sons are separately under investigation for embezzlement, fraud and four other charges relating to their business.

Yoo Byung-eon, then Semo Group chairman, is arrested on charges of embezzling money from members of a religious cult on Aug. 1, 1991. Yoo Byung-eon, then Semo Group chairman, is arrested on charges of embezzling money from members of a religious cult on Aug. 1, 1991.

Meanwhile, investigators probing the ferry disaster plan to issue arrest warrants for the two helmsman of the ferry as well as two other crew on charges of failing to help passengers and bailing out early.

A total of 15 crew now face criminal charges.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 25, 2014 11:54 KST