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Reward for owner of SK ferry upped to US$500K

SEOUL--Under-pressure South Korean prosecutors on Monday upped to US$500,000 a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of a fugitive businessman in connection with last month's ferry disaster.

The new sum was a 10-fold increase from the 50 million won (US$50,000) originally offered last Thursday for Yoo Byung-eun, patriarch of the family that owns Chonghaejin Marine Co.

Chonghaejin was the owner and operator of the 6,825-tonne ferry, Sewol, which capsized and sank on April 16 with the loss of around 300 lives — most of them schoolchildren.

Yoo is wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence, as prosecutors investigate the extent to which the Sewol disaster was caused by a lack of safety standards and regulatory violations.

“We hope the bigger cash reward will lead to his quick arrest,” senior prosecutor Kim Hoe-jong told AFP.

Yoo has no direct stake in Chonghaejin, but his children and close aides control it through a complex web of holding companies.

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