SEOUL, June 3 A South Korean businessman and
Christian sect leader, wanted on charges tied to a ferry
disaster in which more than 300 passengers drowned, sought
asylum at a Seoul embassy but was rejected, prosecutors said on
Yoo Byung-un, 73, is wanted on charges of embezzlement,
negligence and tax evasion stemming from his control of a web of
business interests centred on an investment firm owned by his
sons that owned the operator of the doomed Sewol that sank on
"By international law, Yoo Byung-un is not a refugee but is
a fugitive with an arrest warrant outstanding, so anyone who
helps him flee will be deemed to be aiding his escape and will
be firmly punished," a prosecutor said.
A person acting for Yoo contacted an embassy and asked about
the possibility of Yoo seeking political asylum, he said.
He was turned down. Prosecutors declined to disclose which
embassy was contacted by Yoo's representative, or if there were
The Sewol, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn,
capsized and sank on a routine journey from Incheon on the
mainland to the vacation island of Jeju.
Most of the 476 passengers were children and teachers from
the same school on the outskirts of Seoul. Divers are searching
for 16 missing bodies.
The captain and surviving crew members were caught on video
escaping the sinking ship while the children, wearing life
jackets, stayed put in their cabins, as they had been told,
awaiting further orders.
Authorities have offered a reward of half a million dollars
for information leading to Yoo's arrest but he and his first son
have eluded a massive manhunt that included a search of a
religious commune south of Seoul where Yoo once had a
photography studio. The second son is in the United States.
Prosecutors believe the Yoos are responsible for business
decisions related to the renovation of the ferry and its
operation that led to the country's worst maritime disaster in
All 15 surviving crew members of the Sewol have been
charged. The captain and three senior crew members face homicide
charges. Nine crew were indicted for negligence and two on the
lesser charge of abandoning the vessel.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park, writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Nick