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Son of dead tycoon at head of Sewol ferry company arrested in Seoul

AFP-JIJI

South Korean police on Friday arrested the fugitive son of a business tycoon who owned the Sewol ferry which sank in April with the loss of around 300 lives, officials said.

Yoo Dae-kyun, 44, was picked up in a southern suburb of Seoul just three days after his father, Yoo Byung-eun, was confirmed dead.

His arrest is expected to boost the official investigation into whether mismanagement by the Yoo family contributed to the ferry disaster.

Yoo Byung-eun, 73, had been the target of an unprecedented, months-long manhunt involving tens of thousands of police officers and army troops.

His body was found June 12, lying in a field just outside the city of Suncheon, 300 km (186 miles) south of Seoul.

At first, local police had no idea it was Yoo’s body and a nationwide manhunt for the reclusive billionaire continued for six more weeks before DNA and fingerprint evidence revealed the corpse’s identity.

State prosecutors had offered a $500,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. For the son, a reward of $100,000 was offered.

Yoo Byung-eun was the patriarch of the family that owned and operated the Sewol ferry which sank April 16 with the loss of around 300 lives — mostly schoolchildren.

Yoo Byung-eun’s wife, Kwon Yoon-ja, was arrested last month, and their daughter, Yoo Som-na, has been fighting an extradition order from Paris.

Forensic experts said Friday they had been unable to determine the cause of Yoo Byung-eun’s death after examining his body.

The fact that the body was in a police morgue for six weeks while the manhunt was still under way triggered a storm of angry ridicule.

Two senior police officials and a top prosecutor in the case were both dismissed from their posts as a result.