Massive Manhunt Proves Waste of Time

The aftermath of the April 16 ferry disaster descended into grim farce when a massive manhunt for fugitive ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon proved nothing but a 40-day wait to identify a corpse.

Police put a W500 million (US$1=W1,025) bounty on Yoo's head, while thousands of police and military personnel were mobilized, although his decomposed body was found on June 12, just 2.5 km from a summer home which police raided on May 25, and a mere 300 m from a temporary checkpoint.

It took 40 days to identify the body, which was discovered by a local resident, resulting in a huge waste of taxpayers' money.

Tests turned up a 99-percent match with Yoo's

Crime scene investigators on Tuesday collect bones and hair at the site where the body of fugitive ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon was found in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province. Crime scene investigators on Tuesday collect bones and hair at the site where the body of fugitive ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon was found in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province.

The body was found 51 days after he went on the run. Police believe he died sitting on a fertilizer bag and eating pieces of dried beef. The septuagenarian had been barely managing to eat one meal a day while trying to evade capture.

The body was clad in sneakers, thermal underwear, a black parka, pants and a hat. It had decomposed almost down to the bone, making visual identification impossible. He was found lying down with his hands resting on his abdomen. Only 10 upper teeth were left and no lower teeth, according to police.

The parka was an expensive Italian brand that could have given police a clue to the body's identity, suggesting it was not that of a vagrant. It also took police some time to figure out that the label "waschbar" in the sneakers was not a Japanese brand name but the German for "washable."

Police believe Yoo died just a few days after he fled the cottage in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province.

On June 12, police sent tissue samples from the hair and thigh bone to the National Institute of Scientific Investigation for analysis, but the results did not come back until Tuesday morning. It took so long because the institute saw no urgency as it had no indication whose body it might be.

An official at the institute said the DNA matched that of Yoo's older brother, who has been jailed, and body fluids traced to Yoo at the cottage.

Fingerprint analysis also revealed a perfect match, though two earlier fingerprint tests on June 13 and 22 failed to produce results.

The belated discovery has exacerbated a public outcry over official ineptitude in the handling of the disaster and its aftermath.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 23, 2014 09:30 KST