When I picked up The New York Sunday Times from the dirt driveway this morn, there front and center was this story about the man rotting in the weeds. Yes, I know some people still think a conspiracy exists and the man rotting in the weeds was another man despite fingerprints and DNA and what the JoongAng reported but I think they have the right man who was rotting in the weeds to the point where he was mostly rotten. As in life so in death.


The leader of the Salvationists got his salvation in an apricot orchard where maggots feasted on him like he had society for most of his 73 years. Of little surprise, The Times points out that he turned his followers into investors early on:

Money for investment was hard to come by, so by using church members as a source of capital, he was able to build factories and companies at the same time that Samsung and Hyundai rose to prominence, though he never matched their size.

Later, in the late 80s, when one of his many companies ran the Han River tourist boats, the man rotting in the weeds showed what he thought about safety in the face of profit, a philosophy that would lead to the Sewol tragedy:

Even then, Mr. Yoo’s vessels faced criticism for overloading. Once, when his company tried to board more than twice one vessel’s maximum limit of 200 passengers during a busy holiday season, irate passengers almost rioted, said Lee Cheong, a former Salvationist who worked as a crewman on the boat. He said Mr. Yoo watched the melee impassively from the pier.

The man rotting in the weeds will provide a great case study in moral bankruptcy, megalomania, and how to buy your own exhibitions at the Louvre and Versailles in case your godly reputation has suffered from a mass suicide and four years in prison for defrauding your own flock:

Hoping to reinvent him as a Zen-like artistic genius, a family business donated $1.5 million to the Louvre, which then etched his new identity — the pseudonym Ahae — in gold on a marble wall at the museum. The family inaugurated a worldwide tour of his photos at Grand Central Terminal in New York and spent nearly $1 million to rent space as part of a deal to exhibit his work for months at Versailles…

Perhaps turning your back for a million to allow a megalomaniac to hold an exhibition with his pictures can be forgiven, but willfully avoiding responsibilities for the safety of human lives cannot. The sheer negligence of officials and human beings in the marine industry goes beyond sinister. As is laid out in the article, the Korean Register of Shipping, the Coast Guard, the Korean Shipping Association and local government officials all failed to carry out their duties, which led directly to an insanely overloaded, top-heavy, ballast-light Sewol on April 16.  Red flags that had been raised four years earlier and just last year about such overloading were ignored, and in January of this year, the following incident prompted company officials to call for the sale of the ship.

[T]he ship’s trouble with balance became glaringly obvious during a port stop in Jeju. Hit by gusts, the ship’s oversize superstructure acted like a huge sail, pinning the vessel to the dock and preventing it from departing. The episode was worrisome enough to company officials in Jeju that they sent a report to their management warning of the ship’s instability, prosecutors say.

Yet the man rotting in the weeds vetoed a request to sell the ship and, instead, called for more cargo perhaps knowing that no one would notice or care—until more than 300 lives, most of them high school students, came to an end in the cold dark seas off Donggeochado. Someday maybe we’ll learn what the man rotting in the weeds thought about all this but, at least for me, it is enough to know that as April turned to May, with June and justice around the corner, the man who had for so long put profit over people decided it was best that he go rot in the weeds.