‘Yoo Byung-eun is alive’

July 24, 2014
A police officer points to glasses believed to have belonged to Yoo Byung-eun. Police said Thursday they found the glasses in a garden 500 meters away from his vacation home in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province.  (Yonhap)

A police officer points to glasses believed to have belonged to Yoo Byung-eun. Police said Thursday they found the glasses in a garden 500 meters away from his vacation home in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province. (Yonhap)

Conspiracy theories rife over Yoo’s death

By Jung Min-ho

Yoo Byung-eun is alive.

The body of the de facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol has been switched.

And the leader of the religious cult was murdered in a conspiracy.

These are some of the rumors swirling around the Internet with investigators struggling to make a convincing case that the dead body they found on June 12 was Yoo.

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A lot of Koreans don’t believe Yoo Byung-eun is dead.

Police said Tuesday that DNA and fingerprints from the corpse found in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province matched that of Yoo.

However, there appear many holes in their assertion.

First, experts raise questions over the advanced state of decomposition of the body. They say it’s not possible for a body to reach “an almost skeletal” state in just 18 days — the last confirmed sighting of Yoo.

A disclosure by a funeral service company official that his head was “separated” from the body has helped such rumors spread more quickly.

The fact that police did not report the finding of the body to the prosecution has also caused some heated debate.

Yoo’s vacation home in Suncheon is about 2.5 kilometers away from where the body was found.

Some speculate he was killed by opponents within the Evangelical Baptist Church, a religious cult Yoo and his father-in-law Kwon Sin-chan founded in 1962.

Some have even likened Yoo’s case to that of Cho Hee-pal, who fled the country in 2008 after swindling people out of about 8 trillion won ($7.7 billion). Police believed that he took over 2 trillion won with him when he fled to China.

They said he died of a heart attack in China, however, many people claimed they saw him alive later and say he faked his death.

“I do not understand why police did not report finding the body earlier. I doubt it was a mistake,” a 24-year-old college student told The Korea Times.

“I do not trust the investigators’ announcement that the dead man is Yoo. I do not believe anything they say,” a 27-year-old woman, who refused to be named, said.

Pyo Chang-won, a former criminology professor at the National Police University, said the rumors showed the level of public distrust of the police and government.

“Rumors run wild when people do not trust their government,” he said. “The government has failed to find out why the ferry sank and people have increasingly begun to distrust it.”

Yoo Ki-hong, a senior spokesman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said the rampant rumors are an indication of the government’s incompetence.

According to Macromillembrain, a research firm, 71.9 percent of survey participants said they have distrusted the government since the ferry accident. About 1,000 people participated in the survey, which was conducted from June 25 to July 1.

The National Forensic Service is looking into the cause of Yoo’s death. The agency is expected to unveil the results of its examination as early as today, police said.

One Comment

  1. William Aster

    December 26, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    I am researching a book on the ferry sinking and Yoo’s church. Is there anything, in your opinion, to the rumors that the sinking was intentional, related to Mr. Yoo’s alleged suicide cult involvement? Thank you,
    William Aster

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