Mon, Sep 01, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Tycoon linked to ‘Sewol’ disaster mourned at funeral

Reuters, SEOUL

Yoo Dae-kyun, center, the eldest son of shipping tycoon Yoo Byung-eun, is escorted to his father’s funeral on Friday in Incheon, South Korea.

Photo: AFP

Family and church members mourned at a private funeral on Saturday a South Korean businessman linked to a ferry that sank in April killing hundreds of children, though his death remains shrouded in mystery.

Yoo Byung-un, 73, was found dead in a plum orchard in June, but his body was not identified for more than a month, despite him being wanted in connection with the sinking of the Sewol ferry, with 476 passengers and crew onboard.

About 300 people drowned in South Korea’s worst maritime accident in decades, while 172 survived.

Most of the people killed were children on a school trip. The tragedy caused an outpouring of nationwide grief, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s government was heavily criticized over what many called an ineffective response to the disaster.

Yoo was the head of the family who owned the ferry operator’s holding company. He was accused of a range of questionable activities, including embezzlement and negligence, that prosecutors believe led to the ferry disaster.

The coffin holding his body was brought to a sprawling rural compound of the Evangelical Baptist Church about 80km south of Seoul, as church members streamed in to attend the two-day funeral service.

The service was closed to outsiders and the media. The interment took place yesterday.

“He will be buried on a mountain inside the complex, which will be [a] 5-10 minute walk from his father-in-law’s grave,” said Lee Tae-jong, a church official.

Yoo cofounded the church, along with his future father-in-law.

“Yoo was our mentor who taught about the Bible and loved nature and our country. I feel so sad to see him becoming feed for maggots,” a church member said, requesting anonymity. “There will be a judgement by God some day.”

The Sewol capsized and sank after trying to make a sharp turn while on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to an island near the southwestern coast. It was later found to be structurally defective and overloaded.

Yoo’s wife, brothers and oldest son have been arrested on charges including embezzlement, but were granted temporary release from detention so that they could attend the funeral.

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