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Bishkek (AKIpress) - South Korean police announced Tuesday that a badly-decomposed body found last month had been identified as that of the fugitive tycoon whose family owned the ferry which sank in April with the loss of 300 lives.
Yoo Byung-Eun had been the target of an unprecedented, months-long manhunt involving tens of thousands of police officers and army troops, AFP reports.
The body was found nearly six weeks ago on June 12, lying in a field just outside the city of Suncheon, 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of Seoul.
Discovered by a local resident, it was in an advanced stage of decomposition and the match with Yoo was only made after a DNA test.
After weeks of technical treatment, forensic experts eventually managed to lift a print from one of the index fingers that confirmed Yoo's identity.
Suncheon police chief Woo Hyung-Ho told reporters the body was too decomposed to ascertain the cause of death, although several empty bottles of alcohol were found at the scene.
"We do not know yet whether it was a homicide or a suicide," Woo said.
"We are hoping that more detailed forensic analysis will shed light on this and on the exact time of death," he said, adding that a toxicology test was being carried out.
The police had been widely criticised for failing to capture Yoo and Woo acknowledged that investigators had also been slow in connecting the body with the fugitive businessman.
It was found just a few kilometres from a villa Yoo was known to have used, and next to the corpse was a bag containing an autobiography Yoo wrote in prison in the 1990s.