The stakes at Geumsuwon, suspected hideout of Yoo Byoung-eun, grew significantly higher over the weekend, and the prosecutor’s office went all in.
A senior prosecutor involved in the case told the JoongAng Ilbo that “We gave the Yoo family another chance because they have their rights as citizens. But we will have custody of him within this week no matter what.”
If the prosecutor’s office had hoped to buy the pot, members of the Evangelical Baptist Church called: “ ‘Be prepared for bloodshed. Things cannot get worse. We will protect with our lives. In case of bloodshed, the prosecution will be responsible. If we lose the church, we lose everything,’ they shouted, punching the air with their fists.”
I would expect such words from the sect members. The prosecutor’s office, however, should not engage in table talk. Setting the stage for the final showdown later in the week, the prosecutor’s office is expected to ask for and obtain an arrest warrant for Yoo Tuesday.
Rather than noting the parallels to Waco, I hope the Korean authorities remain mindful of two key differences: those holed up inside the compound do not have firearms and do not represent a threat to themselves or those outside the compound.
The Korean authorities seem to have misplayed their superior hand. Doubling down on their mistakes, the Korean authorities frittered away their biggest chip, time. By setting an end of week deadline, they bet all on this round, alerted and mobilized the sect’s members, and maybe even sent a cut and run signal to Yoo Byung-eun.
I’ve been to the sect’s Geumsuwon complex twice, today and Thursday last week. Today, I observed many more people behind the compound’s main gate and blocking the main driveway. I noticed a police presence of three squad cars, if the one squad car with two sleeping police officers (I took a photo) counts. I witnessed increased traffic, which went unchecked by Korean authorities, in and out the main gate and several large trucks capable of carrying several days’ provisions for the several hundred visible behind the main gate.
I spoke to several sect members and one member in depth. She emphasized the environmentalism as one of the sect’s core beliefs. “Hannah” self-identified the sect as “Christian fundamentalists” and believers in “the truth”. She repeatedly talked about the corruption in the Korean government and judicial system, that Yoo Byoung-eun would not be treated fairly, and that the sect’s membership were protecting the land. She motioned toward the long, uncut grass and specifically pointed out the tall-stalked dandelion heads that had turned to parachute balls, which means that they were ripe for children to pluck and scatter to the breeze to the chagrin of grandfathers everywhere. Hannah never referred to “Mr. Yoo” as a minister or religious leader. She said that the sect was without ministers and that all males, she specifically and without prompt excluded women, were welcome to speak before the congregation.
Since my visit last Thursday and keeping with their environmentalism, the sect provided a dual male/female portapotty for the convenience of the media. I spoke to a reporter from Channel A who said that the sect had cared for the media members’ overnight comfort. From the north perimeter, I could see at least three of the oft-mentioned subway cars behind the trees. Both the north and south perimeters had more members watching from make-shift guard houses than had been visible on Thursday. The north perimeter had razor wire, which if I judge by the weathering was not new and seemed to present more of their intentions to non-scheduled visitors than an effective deterrent to anyone who really wanted to enter the compound.
The sect members seemed to be of two simultaneously conflicting and irreconcilable minds: one moment they spoke to me of the impending and perhaps concluding confrontation and the next they gave me organic candy and invited my family and me to the compound anytime.
I texted Hannah my email address and offered her the opportunity to publish an unedited message to the English speaking foreign community, and she texted back, “Follow ur heart “