South Korea ferry disaster
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A TV news showing portraits of Yoo Byung-eun. Photo: AP

Yoo Dae-gyun, son of South Korean ferry tycoon, detained

South Korea's forensic agency said yesterday it was impossible to determine the cause of death of a billionaire businessman linked to the ferry that sank and killed 304 people in April, deepening the mystery surrounding the final days of the nation's most wanted man.


Police yesterday detained the eldest son of the owner of the South Korean sunken ferry after two months on the run. It came three days after his billionaire father was confirmed dead.

Yoo Dae-gyun was picked up from an office south of Seoul along with a woman accused of helping him while he was a fugitive, Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency said.

Yoo is a major shareholder in Chonghaejin Marine, the operator of the ferry that sank in April. His father, Yoo Byung-eun, had founded the predecessor of Chonghaejin.

For months, authorities sought the two, saying embezzlement and other alleged corruption by the Yoo family may have contributed to the April 16 disaster that left 294 people dead and 10 still missing. Most of the victims were high school students.

The body of the elder Yoo, 73, was discovered in a southern rural area by a resident on June 12. But it was mistaken as a homeless man's despite nearby clues to its identity. The authorities continued their massive manhunt for more than a month, prompting public criticism of police and prosecutors.

DNA testing confirmed On Tuesday that the body was the elder Yoo's. The National Forensic Service said yesterday that, due to decomposition, it could not determine the cause of death.

His body was found near a villa police raided in May and items found near the remains could have offered clues about his identity. DNA tests took about 40 days and critics said officials could have done it sooner.

Prosecutors later said Yoo's detained secretary told investigators her boss was hidden behind a wall on the second floor during the May 25 search of his villa.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Cause of fugitive ferry tycoon's death a mystery