Jul 7, 2014

South Korea - Ferry owner barred from holding French exhibit

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Followers sit before police outside the compound of Yoo Byung-Eun, a leading member of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea, in Anseong, 80 km (50 miles) south of Seoul on June 11, 2014. Thousands of South Korean police forced their way into the compound of a splinter religious group in their search for a missing businessman wanted in connection with April's ferry disaster.

The French government has acknowledged the seriousness of the Sewol ferry disaster by banning fugitive Yoo Byung-eun, who is better known as Ahae in Europe, from holding a scheduled photo exhibition in the country.

Following his previous event in Paris in 2013, Yoo, the owner of the Sewol, was preparing for a solo show in Compiegne, northern France, before the April 16 ferry sinking.

While the exhibition is projected to be postponed indefinitely amid investigators' ongoing manhunt in South Korea, the foreign affairs minister of France has called on the organising committee for the exhibition to withdraw the event.

On its homepage over the weekend, the committee delivered the French foreign minister's stance that "it would hurt victims' families and Koreans if (the committee) showcases his photo works." The event was slated for early July.

Reportedly via his PR firm Ahae Press France in Paris, the 73-year-old Yoo had promoted and marketed himself as a photographer who goes by the name Ahae.

Yoo was unknown as a photographer before 2011. His project, "Through My Window," began in 2009 and continued for four years, during which time Yoo allegedly took more than 2.5 million photographs, all through one window at a studio in Geumsuwon, the compound of the religious group Salvation Sect, which is led by him.

While the prosecution has yet to arrest the business irregularity-ridden Yoo, a Seoul court ordered the provisional seizure of assets owned by those being held responsible for the ferry sinking in order to cover the huge cost of handling the disaster and compensating victims and their families.

The Seoul Central District Court, which accepted the government's petition, has ordered the sequestration of assets owned by Yoo; four officials of Chonghaejin Marine Co., the operator of Sewol; and eight crew members aboard the ill-fated vessel.

The government is expected to secure up to 403 billion won ($395 million) if it wins court battles against them.

The prosecution, which has failed to determine the whereabouts of Yoo and his oldest son, Dae-kyun, both of whom have been on the nation's most wanted list, has only captured Yoo's wife, brothers and in-laws.

Yoo's oldest daughter, Seom-na, has been detained in Paris since late May.

Korean prosecutors are striving to attain endorsement from French judges and the justice minister to extradite her to her homeland.

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