Let the Conspiracy Theories Begin

Police announced today that they had found Yoo Byeong-Eon’s badly decomposed body on June 12, nearly six weeks ago:

The chief of police in Suncheon, Yoo Hyung-ho, told reporters that the body was 80% decomposed when an autopsy was started June 13, a day after the body was found. Yonhap said the body was found in a plum field in the city of Suncheon, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul.

He said authorities were able to match DNA from the body to the billionaire and also used a fingerprint from the right index finger.

Water cooler talk has centered around the timing.  Just yesterday, I spoke to several who noted that this coming Thursday would mark the 100-day anniversary since the Sewol Ferry tragedy.  At least one had intended to attend a planned candlelight march and demonstration in Seoul.  Today she expressed incredulity at the timing of the announcement with the upcoming July 30 elections, the farmers’ rice protests, and again the 100-day anniversary and planned candlelight march.

Others expressed dismay with the wasted effort and resources in searching for a dead body six weeks in police possession.  Lest readers forget that Korea had conducted a nationwide (and international) manhunt for Yoo Byeon-Eon, I have been by the Evangelical Baptist Church’s Geumsuwon compound in Anseong at least twice since June 12, and police searched every vehicle that passed on Rte. 38, backing up traffic for a kilometer.  Police had a considerable and convincing show of uniformed officers at that location.

I note that the linked article stated that Korean authorities had identified Yoo Byeong-Eon’s badly decomposed body by his DNA and a fingerprint from his right index finger.  I understand the toxicology reports can take up to six weeks and even that DNA test results, however long they take, might not be immediate, but six weeks?

I can come up with no reasonable explanation for the delay in announcing the results of the fingerprint match.

Finally, I understand (in my admittedly limited understanding of Korean culture) that inquiries into fault and wrong-doing of those who commit suicide come to a halt.  I remember RMH’s suicide, which in effect ended the investigations into his alleged dealings.  I wonder whether Yoo Byeong-Eon (if he indeed committed suicide) will be afforded the same courtesy.

UPDATE:  Suncheon police chief Woo Hyung-Ho (identified as “Yoo Hyung-ho” in the cited article above) admitted to a botched investigation:

“Woo acknowledged that investigators had also been slow in connecting the body with the fugitive businessman.

It was found just a few kilometres from a villa Yoo was known to have used, and next to the corpse was a bag containing an autobiography Yoo wrote in prison in the 1990s.

“We admit that … the investigations on his belongings were imperfect,” Woo said.

“We could have identified him far earlier if we had worked more actively,” he added.

“Woo’s frankness was apparently not appreciated by his superiors and shortly after the press briefing it was announced that he had been removed from his post as police chief.”  Ouch.

State-owned Arirang news reported that the DNA tests took so long because the badly decomposed body necessitated that DNA be sampled from his bones.   Arirang also reported that Yoo’s body was found wearing a “high-priced” Italian made winter jacket, a hat, and no shoes and lying near a bag etched with “Love like a Dream” (the title of his authored book), alcohol (Yoo was said to be a non-drinker),  parts of a copy of his book, and a brand of bottled water owned by Yoo’s company and that he drank exclusively.

The Korea Herald reported that “insiders raised the possibility that investigators may have regarded the body as that of an elderly resident from the provincial district.  Investigators had reportedly told the plum farm owner” who had found the body “that the body ‘seemed to be an ordinary homeless person.’ ”  I find investigators reactions, delays, inaction, and unwillingness to at least consider that the body could be Yoo’s given the circumstantial evidence inexplicable.

Members of Yoo’s Evangelical Baptist Church remain non-believers:

Despite the forensic evidence gathered by the police, the church’s followers refused to believe the body found in Suncheon was Yoo’s.

“The body was too decomposed to be his,” said church spokesman Lee Tae-Jong, who was also suspicious about the alcohol found at the scene.

“Chairman Yoo seldom drinks,” Lee told the YTN news channel.

“I suspect this is a trap laid by police in their efforts to capture him,” he added.

  • codfilet

    Now he can’t start talking about his “relationships” with government officials, can he? There have to be a lot of people out there breathing a little easier today.

  • http://www.kylelivinginkorea.com/ Kyle

    Great point. I didn’t even think of that angle but it makes a lot of sense.

  • pawikirogii

    this is going to be a good movie!

  • redwhitedude

    To take a page out of Putin’s dysfunctional propaganda and disinformation campaign. He was a passenger in the Malaysian flight MH17.

  • http://www.kylelivinginkorea.com/ Kyle

    My wife just told me that she believes that they released this info to distract people from the government voting to have privatized hospitals (or to allow for profit hospitals, I might be messing this up in translation) today.

  • bigmamat

    Sounds to me like he left enough clues. The only thing more he could have done is left a note. Do they often find dead homeless people wearing expensive clothes? Next question: Wasn’t there a son they were looking for as well? Where’s that mo fo?

  • Aja Aja

    There are doubts and conspiracy charges for three reasons. One, Yoo was never drank, and he was too careful about his health, what he ate for meals, as he only consumed organic stuff. Two, Yoo was confirmed alive by the investigators as late as May 25. His body was found 15 days later, yet his body was already decomposed enough to show bone – there are doubts that the body could decompose that quickly. Three, he was a multi-millionaire who got help from everywhere he turned, how could he die as a homeless man?

    Of course there are reasonable answers to all three questions, but I’m just showing you why a lot of people think there’s a conspiracy going on here, thinking that the government is protecting Yoo by presenting a fake body of another man, disguised as Yoo.

  • redwhitedude

    Yet another fine example of Korean law enforcement. The guy that was honest should have kept his post. He is being punished for being honest. Conspiracy theory aside this also looks like police ineptness.

  • RElgin

    Aja summarizes a large portion of younger public opinion as well.
    Some either think the government killed him or that they substituted another corpse for the man simply because of the connections Yu had with existing politicians.

    This thread is missing an important issue – this is not about “conspiracy theories” but about the tremendous lack of credibility this government has. The general mood of the majority of Koreans I talk to believe as Aja mentions.
    Once again, there is an issue of credibility here and the lack of it, on the part of the government, and this very sore issue will, without a doubt, return to haunt the next presidential election and others before then.

  • bigmamat

    Or maybe someone killed him so he wouldn’t reveal all he knows….

  • bigmamat

    Sucks doesn’t it…can’t find a decent candidate to run for anything…Hello America Jr…

  • setnaffa

    Dead wino found with missing Billionaire’s stuff? What’s not to believe?

  • redwhitedude

    If they wanted to do that then it would have to be something that is international, such as NK missile firing, Abe’s revision of article 9, comfort women and so forth. Anything domestic is bound to remind people of the government mishandling stuff.

  • redwhitedude

    You may get your wish eventually.

  • shah8

    are you braindead? A propaganda zombie?

    Whatever, offtopic.

  • redwhitedude

    Nope. I was mocking the investigation of Yoo while at the same time applying silly logic(which the Russians seem to use) on this case.

    Everybody involved in this disaster needs to be tried not just the crew and the company but also the people who were suppose to be enforcing regulations.

  • Sumo294

    There are a lot of big aggressive teachers in Itaewon for a million US dollars would have found this guy in one week–captured him alive and tied him up and delivered him via taxi to the steps of the national prosecutor’s office. All they would have needed would have been a radio, updated police info–and a translator.

  • http://www.kylelivinginkorea.com/ Kyle

    I think she was saying that the distraction is that you couldn’t find any news stories about the vote because there was overwhelming coverage of the CEO’s body. I asked her how the vote went and she said she didn’t know because she couldn’t find any coverage on it.

  • brier

    Keystone Cops. My impression of the Korean police is bureaucracy that exists for itself and their fat paychecks. Doing work unrelated to the bureaucracy is secondary.

    A dead body shows up near a raided hold-up and they don’t connect the dots? They don’t fast tract procedures? How uneducated do you need to be, to not check the title page and author of a book? Do a ‘Naver’ search if you have to, Keystones.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I never trust the government and I don’t believe in luck, so for me this is a double doozy:

    – the government had the great fortune to find this guy just lying there in a field
    – he was carrying his freaking BOOK with him
    – Body was was so badly decomposed they had to get DNA from his bones, but his finger was magically so well preserved they could pull his fingerprint
    – and because the body was in such bad conditions we have to take their word for it that they got him since we cant see that its him.

    This stinks

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Thats a very reasonable thing to think. Governments use the media to distract people. Circuses always overshadow the truly important things which may not be as exciting

  • RElgin

    I really hope Korea does not have its GW Bush moment, complete with an election so botched that judges have to aid the burglar.

  • bigmamat

    I hope for your sake it’s doesn’t either…

  • codfilet

    I think he’s dead,alright. The big question will be “Who killed him?”. His trusted driver is still missing. Did he rat him out to someone?

  • redwhitedude

    What doesn’t help is the police mishandling. Apparently this corpse was found a while ago but they figured it was just some old bum so they took their time with getting the lab results and when it did they were surprised. Really stupid. If you find a body in the search quickly inspect it and then test it instead of assuming it is of little consequence. Stupid attitude. This feeds into conspiracy theories and lack of credibility as if there isn’t enough of that.

  • Bob Bobbs

    Too bad, now we don’t get a trial to reveal the sleaze that led to the sinking. He would have fingered everyone.

  • Sumo294

    I like conspiracies too–but this guy had become soft–he was used to being the guy living in comfort and telling others what to do–he had no stress in his life. He was old and just could not deal with the stress–this is a possibility. Think about his life–he eats the finest organic food in the world–he sleeps around, and he is attended to day and night. Bam–he is on the run–he has to eat crap kimbap–he gets no sleep from the stress and he is holed up in some crap hole. At some point–he either gives himself up, gets out of the country–or he pops.

  • flyingsword

    His driver and the billion won in the duffel bag…..

    On a side note, how much would a duffel bag with a billion won in it weigh?

  • flyingsword
  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.kr/ Horace Jeffery Hodges

    “He would have fingered everyone.”

    So . . . we’re taking sexual harassment?

    Jeffery Hodges

    @ @ @

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    There are many people who don’t want YBU to be caught at all:

    1. Politicians from the KDJ administration who are still in power, and who gave all kinds of benefits to YBU.


    ‘Revision bill proposed by left-wing politicians (including 김홍업, KDJ’s son) in favour of shipping industry.’


    2. Families of Sewol Ship victims

    With the Minju Party behind them (especially as the father of one of the victims is actually a politician and a member of Minju Party) from the beginning all the blame has been put on the Government/PGH. The victims, together with Minju party, have been disgracefully misusing the tragedy.

    Each family now can get 12억원 (US$1.2million) from the Government, plus a loan from the bank without any problem if they needed to. The surviving students can get into university without completing the requisite exams.

    Even that is not satisfying them. They are also requesting political power, including:

    – The right to arrest: they are saying they want to “just accompany” the authorities as they go about their duties – but this really means they want to influence who is arrested. That is a very odd request.

    – The right for audit and inspection : again, no matter what they want to audit or inspect, this would be a very strange power for members of the public to have.

    Of the above two, both the ruling and opposition parties agreed with their request wanting to Accompany the Authorities as they go about their work.

    ‘여야, ‘세월호 조사위’에 동행명령권 부여 잠정합의’

    ‘여야 세월호TF 재개 합의..수사권 이견 여전’

    This is extremely serious as it means that the Bluehouse can also be investigated and that they could request Kim Ki-Chun (PGH’s Chief Secretary) to appear in court. If the Blue house ignores it, they would have the right to arrest him.

    NB: My commentary, by the way, has nothing to do with whether the Blue House should or shouldn’t be investigated. I am saying that these are in no way typical of grieving families of victims. I suggest that it is unheard of for such a group of people to become a political group. This could only happen if such an unlikely grouping had been incited by an organised group.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    The truth of so called conspiracy theories such as Cho Hee-pal’s, NMH’s suicide, public figures’ apparent suicides, dead bodies without heads being discovered, fake corpses being used to hide the identity of the dead and many unsolved deaths reported by the Police to be suicides in the past years is frequently discussed. There are also huge and growing numbers of missing people each year in Korea. As well, there is the very unpleasant possibility that their organs are harvested, their bodies dissolved with hydrochloric acid and the remains disposed of in the stormwater drains you see around in Seoul.

    Yoo’s body found on the 12th June – badly decomposed. Looking from the two different angles (providing two possible scenarios):

    Scenario 1

    Does the corpse really belong to YBU? Is it a fake? Is YBU hiding somewhere in China?

    In the past there were several cases in which the criminal’s corpse was said to have turned up decomposed, but these criminals were actually well and alive living overseas. Cho Hee-pal, for example, conned 30,000 investors by involving them with his multi-level marketing company, taking 4조원($US390million). For several years, he got away from a police dragnet. Apparently he fled to China, and mysteriously died of acute myocardial infarction there. His remains were returned and buried in Korea. This, of course, isn’t the end of the story. Several people witnessed Cho alive and well in China, so the public raised the question of whether Cho was being protected by a political group and the police report was fabricated.

    Scenario 2

    The corpse really does belong to YBE. Han Geo-reh and Pyo Chang-won, left-wing Criminal Profiler/ Professor of Korea Police University are raising the question of whether the body really belongs to YBE. Nevertheless, they are, somehow, trying to give impression that the death was caused naturally. Wonder why….

    표창원 “유병언 맞더라도 국민들이 믿을지 의문”

    주검으로 발견된 유병언…풀리지 않은 ‘5대 미스터리

    According to Han Geo-reh, police said there were no signs of a struggle (eg, a knife wound etc). We might ask, however, if the body is badly decomposed, how can any wound made by a knife or other weapon be visible?

    Facts that suggest YBU really died:

    YTN, “유병언 사체, 몸과 목이 완전 분리…타살 가능성 제기 근거”

    Extracted from above article:

    “However, YBU’s neck was separated from his body, which logically means that his neck was broken by force.”

    According to the article, YBU fled from his villa on the 25th May, and was discovered on the 12th June – badly decomposed in 15 days. To begin with, we do not know how long he had been dead – it could have been before 25th. Even so, it is not common but not impossible for decomposition to take place so rapidly. The weather and other factors can affect decomposition (Pyo also mentioned this).

    Another professor, Kwak Dae-kyong, from Police University stated that the evidence indicates that it could very well be homicide. “We do not know yet whether it was a homicide or died of natural causes.” he said.

    On the subject of how meticulously the body was examined, according to Kwak, analysis of specimens taken from a body is performed extremely delicately. He said there are 50 million people in Korea, and the probability that the outcome could be wrong or might result in a wrong identification is 1/ many billions (meaning almost zero probability).

    “유병언, 같이 있던 누군가 타살 가능성”

  • redwhitedude

    To be safe though it would make sense to divert attention away from anything domestic because issues like hospitals could generate anti government feelings by itself just like people fault the administration over the seowul botch up.

  • redwhitedude

    He isn’t solely at fault from this mess. What the hell were the inspectors who let him get away with it and what about the coast guard response? Of course the government could be accused on focusing solely on this guy and putting 100% of the blame on him.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    It all comes down to the driver, Yang Hee jung. http://www.segye.com/content/html/2014/07/23/20140723004216.html
    He is still at large. But last seen at a funeral parlor ( do you get it?).

  • Koreandumbdumb

    It doesn’t take much to manufacture evidence. Cops do it all the time when they are pressured. They give the sample to chemists to test. On the way to the lab, cops split one sample to two. Of couse, they are perfect match.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    From O.J. Simpson case:
    Prosecutor: this is O.J’s blood at 99.99999% match. The probability is wrong match occurring by chance is 1 out 100 billion.

    But the dream team had a former head of DNA lab as a witness.
    The guy: DNA samples are frequently cross-contaminated while doing the analysis. I have done it and have seen it done many times in the lab. ( He probably got paid $50K for saying this).

    And, they grilled the LA crime lab chemist.
    Dream Team: How many DNA analyses have you done prior to OJ case?
    Chemist: None.

    That was the end of that tune.

  • Bob Bobbs

    The consensus amongst my Korean students today was that the body was ‘fake.’

  • Wedge1

    If they were smart, they’d have pulled in a few forensic experts from the U.S. and Europe to oversee the whole process. That would have eliminated about 80% of the conspiracy theorists, while the final 20% wouldn’t even be convinced if Jesus vetted the findings.

  • Sumo294

    Baduk may be right on this one–hmnnn . . . I am on the fence on this one. He had the resources to pull it off–so it is possible.

  • redwhitedude

    That’s a possibility since the way this was handled was so incredibly dumb.

  • Sumo294

    They found the cash . . . the guy is dead. Conspiracy or not . . . no one leaves behind the cash. If I had found him–the police would have gotten the Yoo–the cash would have mysteriously disappeared in a CONSPIRACY!

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    This story is fantastic in both senses of the word. There is either breathtaking police incompetence or a political conspiracy. What a great country this is!

  • RElgin

    Adventure Time . . . ^_^

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo


    “Politicians from the KDJ administration who are still in power, and who gave all kinds of benefits to YBU…”

    => Politicians from the KDJ & NMH administrations…….gave all kinds of benefits to YBE

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo


    “Facts that suggest YBU really died:”

    => If YBE really died, did he die of natural causes or was his death a homicide?

  • wangkon936
  • wangkon936

    Whoa… they weren’t kidding about badly decomposed body now, were they?


  • WMunny

    Man… that’s his skull!
    Is that possible in 15 days??

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  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    “But the reality says otherwise. Despite a strong need for the party to lead political reform and serve as a role model for our society, a fierce factional fight between two political heavyweights – Suh Chung-won, seventh-term lawmaker and former chairman of the Grand National Party (the predecessor of the Saenuri Party) and Kim Moo-sung, a fourth-term lawmaker and former secretary general of the GNP – over the leadership only deepens the crisis.” (=>Extracted from the JoongAng article…)

    The merger of 3 political parties during the No Tae-woo administration, enabled ‘fraktsiyas’ to penetrate into the ranks of the conservative right-wing. Nowadays, apart from Lee Hoe-chang, Kim Jin-Tae (Kim was heavily attacked by the left wing politicians recently when he criticized China) and Hong Jun-pyo plus a handful of others, it seems entirely possible that the rest could be fraktsiyas (프락치 Russian word meaning spy) pretending to be conservative right-wingers.

    People like Hwang Woo-yeo, Kim Mu-sung, Seo Chung-won, Lee Jae-oh all act against the interests of the ruling party. In effect, they collaborate with the progressive left-wingers, but they represent the Saenuri. Whether one of them becomes the next president or one of the left wing politicians (either, Park Won-soon, Ahn Chul-su or Moon Jae-in), Korea will be 110% subordinated by China.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    Korean democracy is based on the separation of the three branches of government (the separation/[independence of the legislature, administrative and judicial authority) that check and balance one another. However, the power of the legislature (National Assembly) is the strongest that democracy today in Korea is really a dictatorship of the national assembly – the corrupt cartel.

    It is difficult to envisage how it would be possible to stamp out corruption in the national assembly – when it is controlled by the same people who run the court hearings (청문회 – Park Ji-won is the chairperson), and who every time/ if PGH nominates the right person (?), block that person passing through a hearing. Why? Could it be because they fear any person who will expose and stamp out corruption in government. It is not surprising that the incumbents will work tirelessly to make sure that people who are not a threat to them remain in power.

    This is why even if PGH keeps talking about reforms, it doesn’t go anywhere.

    The only solution is that the public needs to wake up. Koreans need to understand that democracy today in Korea is really a dictatorship of the national assembly.

  • Bob Bobbs

    Smoke and mirrors.