Prosecutors may also seek the extradition of a son of the
reclusive head of the family from the United States, an official
said on Thursday.
The Sewol, overloaded and travelling too fast on a turn, capsized
and sank on a routine journey from Incheon on the mainland to the
southern holiday island of Jeju.
Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and
teachers on a high school outing. Only 172 people have been rescued
and the remainder are all presumed to have drowned.
Some of the crew, the captain caught on videotape in his underwear,
abandoned ship as the children were told time and time again to stay
put in their cabins.
They paid for their obedience with their lives.
Heartbreaking video shows them playing around as the ship started
listing, joking about the sinking of the Titanic, when they had
plenty of time to jump overboard.
But only two of the vessel's 46 lifeboats were deployed.
The prosecutors' pursuit of a son and a daughter of Yoo Byung-un,
the head of the family that owns Chonghaejin Marine, the ferry
operator, broadens the criminal investigation into the tragedy. The
government has also started the process of stripping the company of
the license to operate ferries.
But it was not clear whether Yoo Byung-un himself, who ran the
defunct commercial empire that was the precursor to the sprawling
business interests that include Chonghaejin, might be called in for
Yoo's son, Hyuck-ki, who is believed to be in the United States, has
failed three times to respond to a prosecution summons, an official
said. Other close aides to Yoo are also believed to be abroad and
have ignored summons.
"Since it is an important issue that has drawn public attention, we
will do our best for their attendance and forcible extradition" said
Kim Hoe-jong, second deputy chief prosecutor at Incheon District
Prosecutors arrested several officials of the ferry operator and its
affiliates, including Chonghaejin's chief executive, on charges of
negligence causing death and the sinking of a vessel on Thursday.
All 15 of the surviving crew members, including the 69-year-old
captain, have been arrested and face charges of gross negligence
amid accusations they abandoned the vessel without performing
emergency escape procedures.
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Yoo's two sons, Yoo Hyuck-ki and Yoo Dae-kyun, are majority owners
of Chonghaejin Marine through an investment vehicle.
The prosecution is working with FBI and Homeland Security in the
United States for possible extradition of Yoo Hyuck-ki, Kim, the
Prosecutors have also raided the shipping company's offices and
financial regulators are investigating borrowings of the company and
of businesses that are part of a wider holding firm.
Lawyer Son Byoung-gi, who has spoken for the family previously, did
not immediately comment.
South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy and one of its leading
manufacturing and export powerhouses, has developed into one of the
world's most technically advanced countries, but faces criticism
that regulatory controls have not kept pace.
Nearly 450,000 people have paid tribute to the victims at the altar
set up near the school many of the children attended.
But the number of grieving family members keeping vigil in Jindo,
where the search operation is centered, has dwindled with now just
35 of the 476 passengers still missing.
(Additional reporting by Kahyun Yang in Seoul; Editing by Jack Kim
and Nick Macfie)
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