Posted : 2014-05-21 18:28 Updated : 2014-05-21 23:01
Yoo family gets away
Police move into Geumsuwon; cult followers make no resistance
By Kim Da-ye
Prosecutors moved into Geumsuwon, the stronghold of the Salvation Sect, Wednesday, to arrest Yoo Byung-eun but he was nowhere to be found.
There were no clashes with the hundreds of his followers present.
Rumors circulated that Yoo, the de-facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol, and his eldest son had already escaped before the search.
The sect members peacefully allowed prosecutors and investigators to move in after the prosecution accepted their demand for clarification that there were no links between the sect and a mass suicide in 1987, known as the "Odaeyang incident."
Some 80 prosecutors and investigators from the Incheon District Prosecutors' Office made their way into Geumsuwon in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, around noon following a court approving the search for Yoo and issuing a warrant to detain his eldest son, Dae-gyun.
The entry appeared highly coordinated between the prosecution and the Salvation Sect. Around 11 a.m., the sect's spokesman announced to the media that members would let the prosecution into the compound. Thirty minutes later, riot police were deployed in front of the gate. By noon, the prosecutors entered the facility in seven vehicles.
As the vehicles passed through the entrance, the devotees stood on the sides of the road and sang hymns.
The search and seizure lasted eight hours as prosecutors and their investigators went through the compound, which the sect claims to be 760,330 square meters in area. However, they failed to get any tangible results.
The prosecution's entry onto the premises left a few questions unanswered.
It said Tuesday that they assumed Yoo had left the compound over the weekend and was likely staying in a devotee's home in Seoul.
Although prosecutors would be able to seize evidence against him and his family there with a search and seizure warrant, observers questioned why they did so.
Prosecutors also accessed Geumsuwon without an arrest warrant for Yoo. They only had a warrant that allowed them to bring him to court for a hearing to review a possible arrest warrant. The prosecution could have sought a warrant to take him into custody, but did not.
Observers also doubt the motives behind the Salvation Sect's opening of the gate.
Lee Tae-jong, a spokesman for the sect, said in a statement, "The prosecution told us officially today that Yoo Byung-eun and the Evangelical Baptist Church had nothing to do with the Odaeyang incident. This is the first step in us clearing ourselves of a false charge.
"We believe that the prosecution showed a bit of common courtesy toward us. So we will stop the struggle we have continued, despite the misunderstanding that we are a human shield for Yoo Byung-eun."