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Unresolved doubts surrounding death of Yoo Byeong-eon

Posted July. 26, 2014 01:54,   


The National Forensic Service (NFS) failed to determine the cause of death of Yoo Byeong-eon, 73-year-old former chairman of Semo Group and the owner of the sunken Sewol ferry. Even the death of Yoo, who lived in mysterious seclusion, is highly likely to remain a mystery.

The NFS presented results of the autopsy on Yoo’s corpse at the agency’s Seoul unit in Sinwol-dong of Yangcheon District in the morning of July 25. The autopsy confirmed Yoo’s physical characteristics – gold teeth and deformed finger of his left hand. Poisoning, which was suspected as one of the death causes, was not found. Accordingly, the possibility of death caused by potassium cyanide, agricultural pesticides, or snake venom was excluded.

Most of doubts remain unresolved except exclusion of two causes of death. The body is in the state of heavy decay and the state-owned forensic agency failed to confirm the possibility of death by choking, chronic disease or external shock. Due to the same reasons, NFS couldn’t estimate the time of death, either. Forensic doctors from the private sector who reviewed the autopsy results also presented similar opinion to the NFS’s. Kang Sin-mong, forensic medicine professor of Catholic University, cautiously raised a possibility of natural death by body temperature drop, saying “Judging solely by the pictures under the condition that the site was not damaged at all, the cause of death is suspected as hypothermia.”

As Yoo’s cause of death remains unclear, it seems not easy to investigate Yoo’s past whereabouts including how to escape from the police search. Criticism is predicted to grow further against shabby investigation of the prosecution and police, and lack of initial responses. NFS chief Seo Joong-seok said, “We did our utmost efforts but there still remain unclear issues, failing to dissipate all doubts. NFS plans to perform analysis on the clothes (that the dead body was wearing).”