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Con man, cult leader, business tycoon: The man behind South Korea’s ferry tragedy




In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard,  passengers are rescued by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard from a ferry sinking off the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea.
In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, passengers are rescued by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard from a ferry sinking off the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea.
Handout/Getty Images

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A badly decomposed body found in an orchard in South Korea was identified by police earlier this month as that of Yoo Byung-eun, the South Korean business tycoon wanted by authorities in connection to the sinking of the Sewol ferry that killed over 300 people, many of them high school students.

Yoo was widely believed to be the head of the ferry company behind the disaster.

The 73-year-old eluded capture for two months, becoming the subject of a massive manhunt in the country. He was facing charges ranging from embezzlement to negligence, and investigators believe that Yoo and his family pocketed millions of dollars that should have gone to ensuring onboard safety.  

This isn’t the first shady business dealings Yoo is linked to. He was the leader of a church he founded in South Korea, an ex-con that went to prison for fraud, a self-professed high art photographer who spent millions of dollars to have a show at the Louvre, and much more

Guests:

Aidan Foster Carter, Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea, Leeds University, UK, and a longtime Korea watcher. He’s been writing about Yoo for various publications 

Alison Leigh Cowan, longtime reporter at the New York Times who has co-written a piece on the Yoo family