South Korea ferry disaster: Body of fugitive billionaire ferry boss found in a field

Police confirm body found in June is that of Yoo Byung-eun who disappeared after more than 300 died in cruise disaster

South Korean police have confirmed they have found the body of the fugitive billionaire businessman who owned the ferry that killed more than 300 people in April.

Authorities found the body of 23-year-old Yoo Byung-eun in an agricultural field in the southern South Korean city of Suncheon in June.

The businessman and his son went missing shortly after the disaster happened, sparking a media frenzy in South Korea and a mass manhunt, with authorities offering a $50,000 (£29,000) reward for information about his whereabouts at the time.

Mr Yoo’s body was found wearing a pair of expensive shoes and a costly Italian-made jacket, with three empty bottles of local Korean alcohol, a bag and a magnifying glass around him.

Police officer Wu Hyung-ho said the body of Mr Yoo was already decayed beyond recognition, but the results of DNA and fingerprint tests confirmed it was that of the missing billionaire, and more thorough investigation would need to be carried out in order to find out how and when he died.


The disaster led to a period of national mourning across South Korea, with angry relatives of those who had died protesting against the handling of the rescue mission by authorities. Of the 488 people on board, over 300 died when the ferry sank.

Mr Yoo’s alleged corruption was thought to have contributed to the sinking of the Sewol ferry, and he was wanted on allegations of tax evasion, embezzlement and professional negligence.

The tycoon was thought to still be in control of the ferry’s operator, Chonghaejin, despite having been the boss of the company’s predecessor that went bankrupt in the late 1990s. Mr Yoo was thought to be in control of Chonghaejin through a complex web of holding companies in which his children and close associates are large shareholders.

His son, Yoo Dae-Kyun, is still on the run with a $100,000 (£59,000) government reward offered for information of his whereabouts, while many of the billionaire’s family have been arrested, including his wife Kwon Yoon-ja, and his daughter who is currently fighting an extradition bid from France.

A total of 294 dead bodies have now been retrieved from the sunken ferry, though 10 people are still missing. Last month a new report showed that the ferry had been licensed on falsified documents, and was found to be carrying double its cargo load.

Mr Yoo was a member of a controversial church near Seoul that has been called a cult and linked to a 1987 mass suicide. The businessman was originally thought to be holed up in the church’s compound, but he was not found when police searched the area in May. Members of the church, who were said to have called Mr Yoo “Moses,” tried to hold police off from searching the compound at the time, with hundreds of followers reportedly threatening to die as martyrs.

Additional reporting from PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam