Ferry owner Yoo Byung-eon has achieved in death what he failed to do in life, making it onto the front page of the New York Times on Sunday.
Headlined "Greed Before the Fall," the article said, "After a lifetime of craving recognition, of building a flock that showered him with cash and helped fund a business empire selling everything from toys to ships, Mr. Yoo found his moneymaking machine brought more than his own undoing, prosecutors say. It also contributed to one of the worst peacetime disasters in the nation's history -- the sinking of the ferry Sewol" on April 16.
It quoted followers of Yoo's cult as saying that President Park Geun-hye "is trying to demonize the Yoos to deflect criticism from her government." But the paper added, "Dozens of interviews with regulators, Coast Guard officials, prosecutors, dockworkers, crewmembers and family business associates seem to confirm the prosecutors' contention that the Yoo family played a crucial role in the tragedy by cutting corners on the ferry's safety, even as it was spending lavishly on itself."
By the 1980s, Yoo had built a mini-conglomerate, defrauding cult members by improperly diverting money to his businesses. After serving a four-year prison term in the early 1990s, Yoo turned into a photographer and forced his followers and affiliate firms to buy his works at inflated prices. Tens of millions of dollars in subsidiaries' money was funneled to helping Yoo gain recognition in the art world, including nearly US$1 million to organize an exhibition of his work in Versailles, France.
While the ferry operator turned into a cash cow for Yoo, it "spent just $2 last year on safety training for the Sewol's crewmembers. The money went to buy a paper copy of a certificate," the daily said.