SEOUL, South Korea – Prosecutors said today they are tracking a flow of money from a mysterious religious group to the operator of a capsized ferry, as part of their widening investigation into the cause of the deadly accident.
Prosecutors suspect that funds from members of the religious group, the Evangelical Baptist Church, were used in business operations of Cheonghaejin Marine Company and Yoo Byung-eun, a billionaire man whose family appears to control the shipping company.
The deadly sinking of the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol in southwestern waters is likely to be recorded as one of the country’s worst maritime disasters. Nine days after the accident, at least 171 passengers have been confirmed dead, with some 130 others still missing.
On Wednesday, investigators of the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office raided the head office of Cheonghaejin Marine, the Sewol’s operator based in the coastal city of Incheon, just west of Seoul, and some 20 offices of its affiliates, as well as the office of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Yongsan, central Seoul.
Prosecutors said they are analyzing accounting books seized from the church. They suspect that the religious group has exercised influence over the company’s management.
The church was established by chief Yoo’s father-in-law, Kwon Sin-chan, in the 1960s and is led by Yoo. It is considered as a cult with some 20,000 followers, including most of the senior officials of Cheonghaejin’s affiliates and most of the Sewol’s crew.
The religious group gained infamy in 1987 when 32 of its followers committed a mass suicide in a factory in Yongin, Gyeonngi Province.
Source: Busan eFM News