Ferry Owner Cult Members Barricade Compound

Hundreds of members of a cult led by Yoo Byung-eon, who also owns the compromised ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine, are barricading a retreat owned by the sect south of Seoul against investigators.

The cult members gathered at the compound on Tuesday, when prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for Yoo's eldest son Dae-gyun (44) after he failed to show up for questioning.

They left the compound Tuesday morning but returned in droves on Wednesday, with numbers swelling from around 200 to 800, according to police. As of Wednesday night, around 400 remained in the compound, singing hymns and holding prayer meetings. They packed blankets and instant noodles to prepare for a drawn-out siege, and some were carrying suitcases.

A staffer at the compound said, "The rally will not end soon. More followers will converge."

Banners were posted at the compound protesting against what followers claim is religious persecution. Dozens of followers stood at the entrance with truncheons or walkie-talkies throughout the night.

Followers of cult leader and ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon rally at a compound in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday, holding placards that claim they are victims of religious persecution. Followers of cult leader and ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon rally at a compound in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday, holding placards that claim they are victims of religious persecution.

Cult members originally planned a press conference in front of the compound on Wednesday afternoon but canceled the event.

"A representative will announce tomorrow or the day after why we have gathered here and what our complaints are," a spokesman of the cult said. "We did not gather here to protect Yoo but to protect our religious facility after our rights and privacy were invaded." 

Another compound staffer claimed he is not sure whether Yoo Byung-eon is hiding in the compound but added he is confident that his eldest son is not there. Prosecutors believe both are hiding in the compound.

An official with the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office, which is separately investigating the two on charges of embezzlement and breach of trust, said, "Yoo will eventually show up for questioning given his high profile, so we're not immediately going to raid the compound."

englishnews@chosun.com / May 15, 2014 10:55 KST