21 July 2014
Last updated at 23:19
A nationwide manhunt for ferry company owner Yoo Byung-eun was launched after the disaster
Police in South Korea believe they have found the body of the fugitive boss of the operator of a ferry that sank in April, killing more than 300 people.
The billionaire businessman Yoo Byung-eun went missing shortly after the disaster, sparking a massive manhunt.
A police official told local media that further examinations were under way after DNA on a body found in June was similar to that of Mr Yoo’s brother.
Police had wanted to question him on possible criminal negligence charges.
Mr Yoo, 73, was head of the family that owned ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine Co.
He went on the run shortly after the vessel, whose passengers were mostly schoolchildren, went down near Jindo island.
The Sewol ferry had been carrying 476 passengers, mainly school children, when it capsized in April
The tragedy triggered widespread grief and anger over corruption and poor emergency response
Yonhap news agency reported that police found a heavily decomposed body last month in a plum field in Suncheon, a city 300 km (186 miles) south of Seoul.
“We carried out a DNA test after finding a dead body in Suncheon, and the results fairly matched that of Yoo’s brother,” a police official was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
“We need to look more closely into this, but the body is believed to be Yoo’s,” he added.
Mr Yoo was wanted for questioning on possible charges of embezzlement and criminal negligence, as prosecutors investigate whether the disaster was caused by mismanagement.
Many of his family members have been arrested and his daughter, who lives in France, is currently fighting an extradition bid. His eldest son is still on the run.
Police raided a church belonging to Mr Yoo last month and arrested several people accused of helping him
In June, some 6,000 police officers stormed a church complex in Anseong city belonging to Mr Yoo.
Four church followers were detained on charges of assisting his escape and police said they were looking for several more who had helped the billionaire.
Outside the church, supporters held up a large banner that read: “We’ll protect Yoo Byung-eun even if 100,000 church members are all arrested.”
A reward of 500m won ($490,000) had been offered for information leading to his capture and 100m won for that of his son, Yoo Dae-Kyun.
The sinking of the Sewol triggered widespread grief and anger at the government, which has promised to overhaul its bureaucracy and improve emergency response.
Two separate trials, one for the ferry’s captain and crew, and another for Chonghaejin Marine Co officials, began last month.