SEOUL, July 22 (Xinhua) -- A body, which was found 40 days ago in South Korea's southern city of Suncheon, has been confirmed as that of the sunken ferry owner, police here said Tuesday.
"The body, which was discovered on June 12 in a plum field in Suncheon, has been confirmed that of Yoo Byung-eon through DNA testing and fingerprinting," Woo Hyung-ho, chief of police agency in Suncheon, around 300 km south of Seoul, said at the nationally televised press briefing.
DNA samples taken from the body matched that of Yoo, 73, who actually owns Chonghaejin Marine, the operator of ferry Sewol, which capsized and sank off the southwestern coast on April 16.
An index fingerprint of the body, which was badly decomposed, also belonged to Yoo, the police officer said.
The body was discovered 40 days ago in the plum field some 2.3 km away from a vacation home where Yoo was believed to hole up in May.
The body was found lying face up, wearing a winter jumper, black pants and a hat. It was badly decomposed due to heavy rains and high humidity, police said. Beside the body, a couple of alcohol bottles were scattered around.
Police first believed that it was the body of a homeless person due to its shabby appearance. There was no sign of foul play, but the exact cause of the death was under investigation.
The accident, one of the country's worst peacetime disasters, left 294 people, mostly high school students, dead and 10 people still missing.
Yoo and his family have been suspected of committing a host of illegal acts such as embezzlement, dereliction of duty and tax evasion, which led to lack of funds in the ferry operator and caused lax safety practices such as the inveterate overloading.
A massive manhunt was launched after the ferry disaster as Yoo and his family dismissed prosecutors' summons several times and ran away.
Arrest warrants were issued for Yoo's second son and eldest daughter, who are staying abroad, and Yoo and his eldest son have been placed on the most wanted list.
Prosecutors have offered a bounty of 500 million won (some 490, 000 U.S. dollars) for Yoo, the highest amount in the country's history. The prior high was 50 million won. A reward of 100 million won was offered for his eldest son, Dae-Kyun.
Yoo's wife and his 75-year-old elder brother as well as many assistants who are suspected of helping Yoo running away have been arrested.