SEOUL- Thousands of South Korean police forced their way into the compound of a splinter religious group Wednesday in their search for a fugitive businessman wanted in connection with April’s ferry disaster.
Live television reports showed police officers, many in full riot gear, streaming into the sprawling church and farming complex at around 8:00 am (0000 GMT) in Anseong, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Seoul.
A spokesman for the Gyeonggi province police force said 6,000 officers were involved in the raid.
The huge operation came a day after President Park Geun-Hye urged police and prosecutors to step up a manhunt for Yoo Byung-Eun, 72, a leading member of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea.
Yoo is the patriarch of the family behind the Chonghaejin Marine Co. — the company that owned and operated the 6,825-tonne Sewol passenger ferry which sank on April 16 with the loss of 300 lives, most of them schoolchildren.
“Yoo must be brought to justice,” Park told a cabinet meeting.
He 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.
Yonhap news agency said the raid had netted three church followers suspected of helping Yoo evade a nationwide dragnet put in place after he defied an official summons to surrender to prosecutors last month.
Police were searching for 10 more alleged accomplices, Yonhap said. Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.