|Followers of Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol and leader of the Salvation Sect, hold a rally inside Geumsuwon, the sect's stronghold, in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, Monday, to denounce the prosecution's ongoing investigation of Yoo. The religious group said they will provide 500 million won to anyone who "uncovers the truth behind the ferry disaster" in response to the prosecution's increase of a reward for assistance in the apprehension of Yoo and his eldest son to 500 million won a day earlier. / Yonhap|
By Kim Da-ye
After two raids in South Jeolla Province Sunday, on a property in Suncheon and a tea farm in Bosoeng, authorities are continuing to search for Yoo Byung-eun, the de facto owner of the sunken ferry Sewol amid speculation that he could attempt to flee on a ship.
As Suncheon is located near the southern coast and ports in South Jeolla Province, investigators believe that Yoo and his son could try to board a ship.
South Jeolla Province is where many agricultural and fishery businesses belonging to Yoo's Salvation Sect are located, many of his followers are believed to live in the region.
Property under the control of the cult ― and possibly Yoo ― include a tea farm in Boseong, a branch of Chonghaejin Marine in Yeosu, a farm of the Samhae fishery association corporation in Wando and a salt field in Sinan.
Some 120 investigators and police officers searched the premises on Sunday, but failed to find Yoo and his son.
The prosecution on Monday took into custody a woman in her 30s for allegedly fleeing with the 73-year-old Yoo. It is not known how and why she might have helped Yoo.
Four members of the Salvation sect were arrested Sunday for assisting Yoo to escape detection by the police. They allegedly gave Yoo mineral water and dried fruit and let him use their mobile phones.
In the meantime, the Salvation Sect said Monday that Yoo might have returned early in the morning to Geumsuwon, a stronghold of the cult followers in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, in an apparent move to confuse investigators.
Later the same day, the religious group made an official announcement regarding the prosecution's search for Yoo, saying that Yoo is not in Geumsuwon and that 100,000 followers will protect him.
"Because of the 500 million won reward, we don't know what those blinded by money will do. We hope Yoo doesn't get arrested. A hundred thousand followers will protect Yoo," Lee Tae-jong, a spokesperson for the Salvation Sect, said.
Lee said that the Salvation Sect will offer a reward of 500 million won ― the same amount for Yoo ― for establishing the cause of the Sewol tragedy.
The prosecution on Sunday increased the reward for information of Yoo's whereabouts to 500 million won and that of his eldest son, Yoo Dae-gyun, to 100 million won.
The prosecution and police will provide half each of both amounts.
Lee Sung-han, commissioner general of the National Police Agency, said that police officers who failed to arrest Yoo will be held responsible.