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, suspecting that the religious group has exercised influence over the company's management.
An accounting staff member of the church, whose identity has been withheld, was called in by prosecutors Thursday to face questioning as a witness, prosecutors said.
"We called in the staffer to confirm allegations raised so far and details regarding the investigation," said an investigator.
The church was established by chief Yoo's father-in-law, Kwon Sin-chan, in the 1960s and is led by Yoo. It is widely considered a cult, with its some 20,000 followers including most of the senior officials of Cheonghaejin's affiliates and most of the Sewol's crew.
Yoo was also previously a member of the religious cult called Odaeyang, making him a suspect in the cult's 1987 mass suicide-murder. More than 30 people from his group were found dead, bound and gagged in a factory outside of Seoul. Investigators, however, found no evidence tying the event to Yoo.
The sunken ferry Sewol’s captain and sailors arrested for dereliction of their duty of rescuing passengers were confirmed as believers of a heathen cult known as Guwon (Korean for “salvation”).
KBS’s “News 9” broadcasted Tuesday in an interview with a former employee of Chonghaejin Marine, a ferry transportation company which owns Sewol.
He said more than 90 percent of the company employees are Guwon believers, including the company owner Yoo Byung-eun. He added captain Lee Joon-seok had become a devout believer after he landed his job at the company.
Guwon cult’s doctrine inculcates that those who were once saved by God are completely detached from the sins they will ever commit in the future and guaranteed a path to heaven.
The General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Korea defined Guwon as a pagan branch, forcing the cult to establish their own religious foothold, The Evangelical Baptist Church.
Guwon previously made headlines in August 1987, when 32 corpses were discovered on a ceiling of a handicraft factory in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, which was a property of a company called Odaeyang. Police investigation had revealed the company was crushed with 17 billion won worth of private loans.
The victims, including its president Park Sun-ja, committed group suicide. They were all identified as believers of Guwon.
So a suspected mass murder who spent four years in jail for fraud was licensed to run a ferry boat. How come I am not surprised at all that the owner of the ferry boat had a shady past considering all the incompetence and negligence that we have already learned about that created this tragedy?
Cult mass murder, death of pro-Japanese poet
JoongAng Daily/August 29, 2005
A hideous incident occurred on this date after several local newspapers ran series of stories alleging a pseudo religion might be stealing money from its believers.
Thirty-two adult bodies were found dead inside the garret of a small crafts factory run by the religious group, Odaeyang.
About 100 bottles of sleeping pills were found lying near the bodies, some of which had scratches on their necks as though they had been strangled.
After a week-long investigation, police announced the deceased were members of Odaeyang and included the religious leader and her two sons.
The religious head, Park Sun-ja, was one of 29 people who had been locked up in the garret for four days without food or water, police said.
Her sons, 22 and 24 years old, and a 45-year-old factory head, had then killed the others one by one, before hanging themselves.
Police concluded that the case was a group suicide by a cult.
The public, however, was not satisfied with the police explanations.
Some pointed to the weak nature of the floor and that the garret was too small for 30 people to have stayed in for 4 days.
They said the floor was made of thin plywood and that the room was only 13 square meters (142 square feet) wide.
The bodies were also found in piles of two or three, proving they could not have slept there, people said.
In 1991, a forensic medicines doctor claimed the incident had been a homicide. There were also suspicions that the group was connected with a senior government official.
Later, former Odaeyang believers went to the police to testify there were others that had been killed and secretly buried earlier by what they believed was another in the group, for breaking an internal rule.
Prosecutors reopened the investigation in 1991, with little change in the result. They decided an internal fight within the cult must have led to the killings.
The former CEO is one of the masterminds of the Odaeyang scandal that broke out back in 1987, in which 32 cult members committed collective suicide. At that time, he was under suspicion of leading the cult and accumulating huge personal debts. The prosecutors’ office failed to prove the former, and he was jailed for only four years. The scandal led to the bankruptcy of the Semo Group in 1997, and people became less and less interested in his family and company before the recent sinking of the Sewol ferry.
Yoo Byeong-eon, who was once an evangelical pastor in Korea and a member of a religious cult in the 1980s, according to a report by the country’s financial authority.
...On Aug. 29, 1987, the bound and gagged bodies of more than 30 people were found stacked in two piles in a factory in Yongin, Gyeonggi, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Seoul, in what appeared to be a murder-suicide linked to the cult. It is still a mystery whether the members committed suicide or were murdered.
Yoo was investigated by the authorities as a possible head figure of the pseudo-Christian cult, and in 1992 he was sentenced to four years in prison on fraud charges related to the incident. However, he was acquitted for his alleged involvement in the murder-suicide.
Yoo’s Semo Group was successful in the 1980s under the Chun Doo Hwan regime, and he drew public attention in 1986 by winning the bid to operate the private cruise business on the Han River.
In 1999, Chonghaejin Marine was established and took over the assets from Semo Group. Though it was chaired by someone else, it was effectively owned by Yoo’s family.
The operator usually runs ferries between Incheon and Jeju.
In 2009, Chonghaejin posted a 2 billion won ($1.9 million) operating profit, mainly from trips on the Incheon-Jeju route. But it has been suffering from poor performance in recent years, posting a 785 million won operating loss last year, amid a sluggish maritime economy.
According to the prosecution, Yoo’s assets reach approximately 560 billion won, and about half of his assets are debts.
Yoo Byung-eun, dubbed 'the millionaire with no face,' is in fact a billionaire whose family owns the Cheonghaejin Marine Co., the corporation behind the ferry, the Korean Yonhap News agency reports.Bizarrely, Byung-eun is also a renowned nature photographer who works under the pseudonym Ahae.
...The simple answer is – these guys belong to an offshoot of Christianity that probably deserves the term “cult”. They are generally referred to in Korea as “Saviorists” (구원파), although their precise name is Association of Korean Christian Baptists (대한예수교침례회). In contrast, the name of the official Baptist organization is The Korea Baptist Convention. (기독교 한국 침례회) Christian Heresy Counseling Center, run by the Christian Council of Korea (which encompasses most Protestant faiths such as Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.,) has decreed that Saviorists are heretics. (The website of the Heresy Counsel Center also has a fascinating list and articles about those Christian sects that it considers heretics.)
Apparently, Saviorist movement started in the 1960s, when an American missionary named Dick York made Mr. Park a pastor through an informal mission. Mr. Park did not attend any established seminary. According to Mr. Park, Mr. York was a part of Shield of Faith Mission International. (Mr. York’s homepage is here.) The distinctive point in the Saviorist creed is that once you are saved by Christ, you no longer need to repent for your sins – because you are saved already. And the flip side of that logic is that if you continue admitting that you are a sinner (something that most Christians do every Sunday) you make yourself a sinner.
But the Korean does not really care about the finer points of theology. (Actually he does, but this post is not about that.) The term “cult” is deserved based not on faith, but on actions. So what about Saviorists that makes the Korean comfortable to call them a cult? Certainly, hitting up practice rooms around New York to recruit “volunteer” musicians sounds like a cult. (The Korean Fiancée spoke with her musician friends, and apparently these people went as far out as SUNY Stony Brook to recruit musicians.) The aggressive flyering (not just in Korea, but in New York!) feels like a cult.
Also, searching on Naver (Korea’s equivalent to Yahoo!) about Park Ock-Soo results in accusations of being cult plastered with harsh rebuke against such accusation and creepy adulations for Park. Park also sued a pastor who criticized him as a heretic which lasted four years, all the way up to the Supreme Court of Korea (where Park lost.) Death threats against a person who quit the church probably count towards being a cult as well. (The person later wrote a book titled: “Why Are Park Ock-Soo, Lee Yo-Han and Yoo Byeong-Eon Heretics?”)
But most intriguingly, they are implicated in the most classic cult behavior – mass suicide.
How are the people in orange connected to one of the most sensational news stories in Korea of the late 1980s? The police was investigating a strange case. One couple in their 50s had seven children, all of whom worked at a company called Five Seas, Ltd. (오대양 주식회사). The company borrowed $500,000 (assuming $1 = KRW 1,000, a HUGE amount of money in 1987,) from the parents. Five Seas company only paid them the interest without paying the principal. When the parents went to the company to demand the money to be repaid, a number of company employees ganged up and physically assaulted them, causing serious injury.
Five Seas company represented itself as a mid-size company with an emphasis for employee welfare. Its business apparently was exporting hand-made crafts. The company also established day care center and nursing homes for its employees.
The police arrested eleven employees of the company, but a number of key employees ran off and disappeared. Later, the police received a tip that the employees were hiding in a company facility in Yong-In, Gyeonggi-do. On August 29, 1987, the police raided the facility. The police found 49 women and children at the facility, but not the top company officers they were looking for. But one female employee noticed that the ceiling of a room was caving in, unlike the way it was before. She notified another employee, and they climbed up to the attic on top of the room.
In the attic, there were 32 dead bodies. Most of them were found with their hands tied up and choked with a rope, and three men (presumably the ones who killed all others) hanged themselves.
(A lot of the description was lifted from the case file in the National Archives of Korea.)
This is now a distant memory in Korea, but in 1987 it was a sensation termed “Five Seas Incident” (오대양 사건). At the time, the police investigation revealed that Five Seas company was not a real company at all, but a cult led by a woman named Park Soon-Ja (who was one of the dead, along with her two sons and a daughter.) Park preached that the end was near, and they eventually had to offer themselves to god. Five Seas company recklessly borrowed money, both by posing as a legitimate company as well as by extorting its members. Five Seas cult ranked its members based on how much money they could bring into the cult, both with their own funds as well as whatever they could beg, borrow or steal.
The police concluded that it was a mass suicide, but questions remained. Among them was: one of the key officers who practically ran the company (as far as it was posing as a real company) was missing. His whereabouts would be revealed four years later. On July 10, 1991, five former members of the Five Seas company came to the police, and confessed that prior to the mass suicide, they killed the missing key officer and one other person for “breaking the rules.” Sure enough, the police was able to recover two bodies from where the five led them. When asked why they came forward, they replied that their conscience compelled them to.
The police re-opened investigation to retrace the incident from the beginning and address all outstanding questions, such as: Was this really religiously motivated suicide, or did someone cause the death of the 32 for any other reason? Can we seriously believe that the murders who confessed that after four years because their conscience caught up to them? And why did the key officer of the Five Seas company have to be killed?
The last question provided the start of the thread that the police pursued. The key officer was running the company, which means he was in charge of the company’s money. The police reconstructed how much money the Five Seas company collected, and it was estimated to be up to $ 17 million (assuming $1 = KRW 1,000) – an astronomical sum in late 1980s Korea. Then the next logical question is: where did the money go?
This is where the link between the Five Seas company and the Saviorists began to emerge. Bulk of the money was traced to a company called Semo Corporation, led by a man named Yoo Byeong-Eon (유병언) whose side job was to be a pastor for a Saviorist church. (Does the name sound familiar?)
This was a big deal at the time, because Semo Corporation was a big company, mostly known for importing the tour cruise boats on the Han River in Seoul. (The Korean remembers riding those boats as well.) The investigation further revealed that Park Soon-Ja (the cult leader of the Five Seas) and most of her followers were originally from Yoo’s church.
With a crazy scenario like this, conspiracy theories were plenty. It was rumored that the 32 Five Seas cult people did not commit suicide, but was actually killed by Yoo’s henchmen because Five Seas was attracting unwanted attention and Yoo wanted to sever ties with them. There was also a rumor that a key official in the Chun Doo-Hwan dictatorship that ruled Korea in 1987 was a secret Saviorist, who helped the Semo Corporation grow and covered up the Five Seas’ ties to Semo when the suicide happened.
However, the investigation only concluded this much – Yoo was actually responsible for the former Five Seas murders to come forward, in order to distract the growing attention toward the tie between Five Seas and the Saviorist church. The 32 people indeed committed suicide, because there was no forensic evidence to suggest that they were murdered. However, Yoo was nonetheless indicted for fraud as he raised money from his followers in the Saviorist church for the purpose of doing “god’s work,” then proceeded to use that money for his company. He served four years in prison.
Now, back to the original point of this post – how does Park Ock-Soo fit into all this? As it turns out, like Park Ock-Soo, Yoo Byeong-Eon never attended a seminary either. Instead, Yoo also attended the makeshift school set up by Dick York and the Shield of Faith Mission International, alongside Park.
This is about as much as the Korean could gather from online research. No one knows for certain how deeply the Saviorists were involved in the Five Seas mass suicide (other than what is described above,) and it is not even clear whether Park Ock-Soo’s group is necessarily the same as Yoo Byeong-Eon’s group, since cults are usually a personality-driven affair. And of course, Park’s followers vigorously deny any such involvement by Park in Five Seas incident. Park himself stated that "Dick York is a great man. It would not be right if all of his students are criticized because one of them did wrong."
At any rate, this whole thing is simply full of intrigue.
Yoo and his father-in-law, Pastor Kwon Shin-chan, created the religious group in 1962, which was defined as a cult by the conservative Christian denomination, the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches, in 1992. Yoo’s has had an eventful career, from a pastor to a businessman to a billionaire photographer and then back again to a businessman.
While serving as a pastor in the 1970s, he established a toy company and practically forced members of the “salvation sect” to work there under poor working conditions.
In a recent media interview, Chung Dong-seop, a former believer in the sect, said that Yoo preached that members would please God if they worked for the company run by the church.
“Their working conditions were miserable. They worked long hours but received a tenth of the wages of the average workers at that time. Yoo accumulated a considerable amount of money by exploiting his workers and the fortune he earned like this was used as seed money for the construction of his business empire,” said Chung,who is now a pastor.
As the toy business thrived, he said, Yoo no longer introduced himself as a pastor, but a CEO.
The sect reportedly has nearly 200,000 believers. But those who are familiar with the sect claimed that the actual number is merely some 10,000, including some celebrities.
The term salvation sect has resurfaced in the media nearly three decades after a mass suicide that shocked the nation in 1987, when 32 people were found dead inside the attic of the cafeteria of the Odaeyang artifacts factory.
The 32 were Odaeyang owner Park Soon-ja, her three children and her employees. The prosecution initially suspected that Yoo was linked to the mass suicide because the late Park was once involved in the Evangelical Baptist Church and a cash flow between the two groups was uncovered.
But the prosecution failed to find a physical connection between the sect and the mass suicide and concluded that the 32 were members of a separate religious cult that believed in the apocalyptic end of the world.
Yoo expanded his business empire rapidly in the 1990s before Semo, a holding company he founded, went under.
Yoo and his two sons restarted a shipping business, setting up Chonghaejin Marine, the operator of the ferry, in 1999, and since then have expanded the scope of their businesses.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ The bound and gagged bodies of 33 people who were linked to a religious cult were found stacked in two piles in a factory attic Saturday after an apparent murder-suicide pact, authorities said.
Police said the bodies were discovered in the attic of a factory cafeteria in Yongin, about 50 miles south of Seoul. Officers said the victims had been dead for up to two days.
''The investigation is still going on but there are suspicions that it was a religious incident,'' a local police officer told The Associated Press by telephone.
The tourist souvenir factory was owned by Park Soon-ja, 48, the cult leader who was called ''Benevolent Mother'' by her followers, authorities said. Mrs. Park claimed God appeared to her and told her to seek followers, they said.
The sect claimed to be Christian and preached that the world was about to come to an end. It demanded extreme spiritual discipline and blind obedience, police said.
Some Korean news reports said Mrs. Park and her three children were among the dead, but authorities would not confirm the report.
Mrs. Park disappeared last Wednesday after police began investigating accusations that she swindled $8.7 million from about 220 people, many of them apparently involved in the cult.
Heavily armed police surrounded the factory as officers and forensic experts examined the bodies and the factory complex for evidence.
The bodies were discovered by Mrs. Park's husband, Lee Ki-Jung, some news reports said.
The hands and feet of most of the dead were tied together and cloth or rope was tied around their necks, police said. Tissue paper and cloth were stuffed into many of the victims' nostrils and mouths.
Police said the bodies were stacked atop the other in two large piles - 14 bodies in one, 19 bodies in the other. Many of the victims were scantily clothed in underwear or pyjamas.
Korean television networks reported from the scene that many of the dead appeared to have been strangled or poisoned and their necks were badly bruised.
The MBC network reported that one person wearing rubber gloves strangled or poisoned the others then killed himself or herself. It said the victims appeared not to have resisted, adding that rubber gloves and drug bottles were found near the bodies.
KBS, the state television network, said 29 women and four men died. Other reports said the dead included children.
Police said a maid at the factory told them that Mrs. Park had been hiding in the attic since Wednesday. The maid said she had been taking food to Mrs. Park once a day and last saw her Friday.
Mrs. Park ran a charity for orphans, homeless elderly people and the poor in the central Korean city of Taejon.
Korean news reports indicated Mrs. Park and aides indoctrinated charity recipients into the cult. Some reports suggested poor people and children were used as laborers in the Yongin factory, which made ornate traditional Korean furniture for sale to foreign tourists.
Many cult followers appeared to have loaned Mrs. Park large sums of money, the reports added.
Police began investigating the cult Aug. 16, following reports that two people were beaten by Mrs. Park's followers after demanding their money be returned, officials said.
Thirteen officials of Mrs. Park's Odaeyang Trading Co. were arrested in connection with the beatings and remain in custody, police said. After the arrests other people started to complain about being unable to get back their money, they said.
Police said Mrs. Park and about 80 followers fled Taejon when police started to investigate the allegations. Officers said they searched the factory Friday and found 49 men, women and children hiding there, but not the cult leader and her top aides.
Mrs. Park, who claimed God cured her of cancer, was a prominent member of the city elite and was involved in numerous social activities.
She received many citations for charitable work, including awards from the government, according to news reports. Her husband is a senior provincial government official.
The claim has been made that Yu Byeong-eon (73), the founder of Salvation Sect (“Evangelical Baptist Church”), and the actual owner of Chonghaejin Marine Co., is an imposter who has defrauded people with his unknown religion. It is also argued that the Salvation Sect’s wrong doctrine may even have influenced the crew to neglect their duty to save passengers from the sinking ferry Sewol.
Jeong Dong-seop (67, photo), former professor of the Department of Counseling and Psychology at Korean Baptist Theological University and Seminary, speaking at an interview on April 24 at a church on Yangcheonno in Gangseo-gu, Seoul, said, “Salvation Sect believers hold key positions on the ferry Sewol and in Chonghaejin Marine Co.” He explained, “Because members of Salvation Sect believe in the peculiar exclusive doctrine ‘Only you will be saved,’ at the moment of crisis they could have mistakenly thought, ‘Do I need to rescue these others, who cannot be saved anyway?’” From 1968 to 1977, former professor Jeong was Yu’s close associate, working at his side as an interpreter.
“Salvation Sect is a sham group, totally unrelated to the Korea Baptist Convention or to any other Korean church, and its founder Mr. Yu is the fraudulent peddler of an unknown religion, as pointed out by the Justice Ministry at the time of the Odaeyang incident in 1987,” former professor Jeong said. “It is impossible to imagine that the wrong doctrine of this pseudo religious group did not influence the Sewol disaster.” He declared, “We must absolutely restrict sham religious groups that crush the happiness of individuals and their families.”
Резюмируя: шанс не более 4%, но это МОЖЕТ быть правдой.