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South Korea police storm church compound in search for ferry owner

Published on Jun 11, 2014 8:30 AM

SEOUL(AFP) - Thousands of South Korean police forced their way into the compound of a splinter Christian group on Wednesday in their search for a fugitive businessman wanted over April's ferry disaster.

Live television reports showed police officers, some in full riot gear, streaming into the sprawling church and farming complex at around 8.00am local time in Anseong, 80 kilometres south of Seoul. A spokesman for the Gyeonggi province police force said 6,000 officers were involved in the raid.

The huge operation came a day after President Park Geun Hye urged police and prosecutors to step up a nationwide manhunt for Yoo Byung Eun, 72, a leading member of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea. Yoo is the patriarch of the family behind the Chonghaejin Marine Co. - the company that owned and operated the 6,825-tonne Sewol passenger ferry which sank on April 16 with the loss of 300 lives, most of them schoolchildren.

"Yoo must be brought to justice," Ms Park told a cabinet meeting. He is wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence, as prosecutors investigate the extent to which the Sewol disaster was caused by a lack of safety standards and regulatory violations.

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