South Korea's Customs Officials Search The Korean Air Headquarters

Wendy Chung, April 23, 2018, 9:22 a.m.


South Korea's customs service said Monday it has carried out a search of Korean Air Lines Co.'s headquarters over suspicions that the family members of Chairman Cho Yang-ho sneaked luxury goods into South Korea without paying duties, officials said. Officials of the Korea Customs Service (KCS) also checked the airline's three offices at Gimpo International Airport, as well as a Seoul office of Hanjin Travel widely known to be used by Cho Hyun-min, the former senior vice president at Korean Air and the chairman's youngest daughter.

"Twenty customs officials carried out the raid to seize computer hard drives and relevant papers," Ryoo Ha-sun, deputy director handling the issue at the Korea Customs Service, said by phone from the central city of Daejeon.

The latest raid came amid allegations by some disgruntled former and current Korean Air employees that the chairman's wife and their children brought in luxury goods from overseas via their airline without properly declaring them with customs.

On Saturday, customs officials searched the headquarters of the national flag carrier and the homes of the chairman and his three children. Cho Hyun-min lives in the chairman's home, while her sister and brother have their own homes.

Smuggling is an offense that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and fines up to 10 times the duties evaded.

Also Monday, Korean Air said it will quickly set up a compliance committee led by a former Constitutional Court justice to strengthen internal oversight.

The move came a day after Cho Yang-ho offered a public apology over the mounting public outrage over his daughter Cho Hyun-min accused of having thrown water in the face of an ad agency manager during a meeting last month.

She is the younger sister of Cho Hyun-ah, who gained global notoriety for the "nut rage" incident in 2014. She forced a plane back to the boarding gate at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport because she was upset with the way her nuts were served -- in an unopened bag instead of on a plate.

Last month, Cho Hyun-ah made a comeback as the head of the hotel affiliate of South Korea's largest air carrier and logistics giant.

On Sunday, the chairman also said his two daughters will quit all their posts.

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