07/31/2014, 00.00

Korea, discovered corpse "not the Sewol owner"

Announced by a group of parliamentarians who visited the forensic laboratory for the autopsy and identification of the body (found in June) and recognized (in July) as belonging to Yoo Byung-eun. Doubts about fingerprints and the stature of the body. Experts: "Science cannot explain everything, but of course the authorities have handled the case badly." 57% of Koreans "do not trust" the government.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - A new mystery is shrouding the death of Yoo Byung-eun, the owner of the Sewol ferry whose body was discovered by authorities June 12 but only identified on July 20. The industrialist, 73, has become the most wanted fugitive in the country after the tragedy involving his ship, which killed more than 300 people. According to some members of the new political alliance for Democracy (NAPD, opposition), the body is not Yoo.  

A delegation from the NAPD yesterday visited the forensic laboratory where the autopsy and identification of the body is being carried out. A spokesman for the group, Park Beom-kye, said: "A police official who was present at the scene of the body's identification told me that judging from appearance, he was 'certain' it was not Yoo. Moreover, the deceased was 159 centimeters tall, the corpse was only 150 centimeters tall. It's also strange that the authorities were able to identify him via a fingerprint sample from his right hand in July, when the hand was supposedly so decayed that it was impossible to obtain a sample in June".

The time discrepancy is explained by the fact that, according to investigators, the body was found June 12, more than a month prior to identification. At first the officials involved had declared that the tissues had expired and were unusable to identify the corpse, only to declare (July 20) that they had been taken fingerprints from the right hand. According to the deputy Park Jie-won, who cites 5 residents of the area affected by the investigation, the body was discovered even before the sinking of the Sewol (which took place on April 16) and then used to close the investigation into Yoo.

These suspicions have prompted responses from some experts. Pyo Chang-won, a well-known criminologist, said: "The DNA testing shows that the deceased and Yoo Byung-eun's brother had the same mother, and his fingerprints matched that on Yoo's ID card. The dental records from the body also match those of Yoo, who had 10 gold teeth, which is very unusual. There is very little possibility that it (the body) is not Yoo's, unless it's an avatar clone of him". For Professor Yoo Seong-ho, a professor of forensic medicine at the National University of Seoul, the question of the "reappearance" of the fingerprints is explained by the conditions in which the body was found: "When an initially wet body dries up after time, the ridges in the finger reappear, allowing forensic officials to obtain a fingerprint sample".

In any case, the issue has divided Korean civil society even more. According to a national survey, 57% of citizens "do not trust the results" or the authorities proclamations on the case. The same experts criticize the behavior of government agencies. According to Prof. Yoo "I'm just speculating, but the police must have given up trying to identify the body after one try. The incompetence of the officials coupled with a misunderstanding (among the public) is presumed to have led to the conspiracy" .

For Pyo, the issue is even broader: " Rather than focusing on discovering the truth, they attempted to cover up the misdeeds by those in power. A lot of the time, the public had good reason to raise suspicions. The investigators often worked as henchmen for the ones in power, which has resulted in people losing faith in what the state agencies or authorities tell them".


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See also
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Baptized by the Pope in Korea: 500 kilometers of rosaries and prostration to demand justice for Sewol
Korea, Sewol captain sentenced to 36 years in prison
South Korean President Park apologizes over ferry sinking