The matriarch behind Korea’s largest airline and her two daughters are facing arrest on smuggling charges, capping a tumultuous year for Korean Air and raising new questions over the airline’s future.
The Korea Customs Service has requested that prosecutors indict Lee Myung-hee, the wife of Cho Yang-ho, the chairman of the Hanjin Group, which controls the airline, for allegedly smuggling luxury products into South Korea on Korean Air flights for her personal use and without paying customs duties.
Similar accusations are being levelled against Cho Hyun-ah, who was a vice president of the airline when she assaulted a member of the crew aboard a KAL flight leaving New York in December 2014 after he failed to serve her nuts on a plate. Ms Cho, 44, was subsequently arrested in South Korea for the “nut rage incident” and served a five-month prison term.
Ms Cho’s younger sister, Cho Hyun-min, is also facing arrest in the smuggling investigation and made headlines in March after she was accused of assaulting an employee of an advertising agency during a meeting. She told investigators that she threw a glass against a wall as she felt her opinions about an advertisement filmed for the airline in the UK were being ignored.
The JoongAng Daily reported that the Incheon branch of the customs service has carried out an eight-month investigation into the alleged smuggling and claims that the family used KAL aircraft and employees to smuggle personal goods into South Korea.