Ferry Owner's Son Arrested

The eldest son of fugitive ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon was arrested in a flat south of Seoul on Friday, just four days after forensics finally identified his father's corpse.

Yoo Dae-gyun (44) was hiding 60 km north of the sprawling compound owned by his father's sect and had spent most of his 97 days on the run holed up there.

The younger Yoo was wanted by police on charges of colluding with his father and embezzling around W5.6 billion from ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine and other affiliated companies (US$1=W1,027). He had gone into hiding after trying to flee to France on April 19.

Also arrested at the flat along with the younger Yoo was Park Soo-kyung (34), a certified international taekwondo referee and the daughter of a high-ranking member of Yoo's crackpot cult.

CCTV footage shows Yoo Dae-gyun and Park Soo-kyung being arrested on Friday in a flat in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province on Friday. /SBS CCTV footage shows Yoo Dae-gyun and Park Soo-kyung being arrested on Friday in a flat in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province on Friday. /SBS

The flat is owned by a sister of one of the elder Yoo's confidants. It was registered as empty, but police grew suspicious when they noticed water and electricity bills being sent there and raided it at around 5 p.m. on Friday.

Yoo junior refused to open the door for around two hours but gave up when police threatened to break it down. Park surrendered without resistance.

Police learned that Yoo moved into the flat around April 22 and was holed up there for more than three months while the owner supplied food, water and other necessities. The refrigerator was stocked full of food.

Yoo apparently survived primarily on microwave meals and lost around 20 kg.

Police also found W15 million and 3,600 euros in cash in the flat, as well as a laptop and mobile phone that appeared to have been left unused judging by the dust that settled on top of the devices, police said.

An investigator on Saturday collects evidence in a flat in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. /Newsis An investigator on Saturday collects evidence in a flat in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. /Newsis

Yoo and Park were handed over to prosecutors in Incheon at around 9:30 p.m. that night. Asked by reporters whether he knew about his father's death, Yoo junior replied, "I just found out about it."

He said he broke off all contact with his family while on the run.

He told prosecutors that he went on the run when he learned about the April 16 ferry disaster because he recalled his father's "ordeal" in late 1980s. In 1987, the dead bodies of 32 members of his father's cult were found in a factory attic in an apparent murder-suicide pact. Yoo senior initially evaded prosecution, but the case was reopened in 1991 leading to his arrest and imprisonment for four years on fraud charges.

Yoo junior's comments suggest he feels he is being treated as a sacrificial lamb to appease public anger over the death of hundreds of passengers aboard the ferry.

The ship's captain and most of the crew were among the first to escape from the sinking vessel after telling passengers to stay put, while greed and mismanagement at the ferry operator is being blamed for dangerous overloading and total disregard of safety rules.

Park told prosecutors that she had not received orders from anyone to help Yoo and that her actions were based on her own decisions. The two have known each other since childhood and Park had served as Yoo junior's personal secretary.

The owner of the flat, where Yoo and Park were hiding, was also arrested.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 28, 2014 09:24 KST