The government has lodged a claim to any properties held directly or by proxy by ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon, the fugitive owner of ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine, to cover compensation payments for the victims of the April 16 disaster.
The Justice Ministry has calculated the cost of search and rescue operations, compensation payments for the victims of the ferry accident, vessel salvage and other related expenses at W403.1 billion (US$1=W1,016) and filed for the sequestration of assets owned by some 20 people including Yoo, executives of Chonghaejin Marine, and crewmembers of the ferry.
A Justice Ministry official said, "With this seizure we want to freeze the assets of individuals who will be held responsible for coverage in compensating the victims and their families."
The Seoul Central District Court must now decide whether to approve the application.
Although the government can sequester more than W400 billion worth of assets from Yoo and other employees of Chonghaejin Marine, the actual amount will probably fall short.
Those of Yoo's assets the government is laying claim to overlap with W37.3 billion prosecutors have already frozen. Even if the estimated W33 billion in assets held by Chonghaejin Marine are added, the total amounts to only around W70 billion and barely tops W100 billion if the assets of the captain, crew and other staff of the ferry operator are included.
The official said the government may well decide to seize more assets de-facto owned by Yoo, an undischarged bankrupt, and his family.