How Long Will This Farce Continue?

Police conducted a second raid Wednesday morning on a sprawling compound south of Seoul owned by the cult led by fugitive ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon. Investigators searched the compound for any clues to the whereabouts of Yoo, who has escaped a nationwide dragnet for weeks, and to arrest key members of the cult who are suspected of aiding him.

An army of no fewer than 6,000 police was mobilized, and military and customs officers were involved in the planning.

Prosecutors have now decided to deploy Navy vessels to intercept Yoo in the ocean should he seek to escape by boat.

A manhunt of this scale is unprecedented in the country's history. It is also rare for the government to place a huge bounty on a fugitive’s head and plead with village leaders around the country to offer tips on his whereabouts. Now that the military is involved, the government has pretty much deployed all of its resources.

President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday slammed prosecutors and law enforcement officers for failing to capture Yoo and said it "does not make any sense" that they have been unable to nab him.

That prompted prosecutors to hold an emergency meeting at 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday and seek court permission to raid the compound again. Previously prosecutors were reluctant to conduct a second raid due to the sheer size of the property, and police feared a possible clash with cult members. 

But Wednesday's raid failed to net two key figures in Yoo's cult who have been charged with aiding him and his eldest son. It is not surprising that investigators left empty-handed once again, since the latest search was a last-minute decision following some strong words from the president, rather than being based on careful planning.

Prosecutors will now be very lucky if they find Yoo at all. It looks like the blame game will end up damaging the credibility not only of prosecutors but of Cheong Wa Dae as the public questions the reasons for such monumental ineptitude.

Public confidence in the government is at a new low. The Korea Coast Guard failed horribly to rescue trapped passengers from the ferry, while the Ministry of Public Administration and Security fumbled repeatedly in assessing the casualty count. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries never did its job of overseeing the ferry operator. Now, the military has been roped into the operation but has been unable even to arrest a couple of followers of a cuckoo cult. Just how much more ineptitude must Koreans put up with?

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 12, 2014 13:07 KST