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Korean Air employees plan rally

Move to oust Chos grows as customs raid uncovers secret room
May 03,2018
Korean Air employees will hold their own candlelight vigil on Friday, calling for the ouster of Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho.

An online community of angry Korean Air employees called “The Voices of Korean Air Employee” plans to hold the vigil at 7 p.m. in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, following in the footsteps of the millions of Koreans that gathered in the same spot to demand the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye in late 2016 and early last year.

The Voices of Korean Air Employee group is not an official representative body of airline employees. The informal community sprung up last month as angry airline employees grouped together to complain about the power abuse of the Cho family.

The idea for the vigil started in a secretive KakaoTalk chat room where about 2,000 employees of the airline swap stories about the owner family. The participants have been tipping off local media agencies of the Korean Air owner family’s wrongdoings under the condition of anonymity. Tangible evidence like pictures or voice recordings and text files containing critical information have been delivered separately to local media outlets via messaging app Telegram, considered to be more secure than KakaoTalk.

Employees are now preparing for a bigger push against the Cho family with the ultimate goal of removing all members of the family from their management role.

The embattled family is currently under investigation from a number of law enforcement agencies. Police are looking into separate abuse accusations against Chairman Cho Yang-ho’s wife Lee Myung-hee and younger daughter Cho Hyun-min. Elder daughter Cho Hyun-ah, already famous for the infamous 2014 “nut rage” scandal, is implicated in a customs investigation into smuggling charges, as is Chairman Cho Yang-ho. Son and Korean Air President Cho Won-tae has so far remained relatively unscathed despite the ever-growing list of scandals involving the family.

Voices of Korean Air Employee has advised participants in Friday’s vigil to wear black clothing and Guy Fawkes masks to avoid retaliation from the Cho family. The community said it will continue to hold the vigils until the power abuse by the owner family has been completely eradicated.

While employees are taking to the streets to protest the Chos, the police and Korea Customs Service have continued their separate investigations, interviewing family members and raiding a number of properties belonging to the family and the airline.

Cho Hyun-min was summoned by police on Tuesday. She was released at 1 a.m. on Wednesday after 15 hours of questioning.

According to the Gangseo Police Precinct in western Seoul, in charge of the case, Cho denied allegations that she threw a paper cup filled with liquid directly at employees, claiming that she pushed the paper cup with the back of her hand off the table and only a splash hit the victims. Her claims echo statements from the Korean Air press office.

On another allegation that she threw a glass cup at employees, a more serious crime, Cho said that she threw the glass at a wall, according to police. The police agency is still investigating the case.

On the same day, the Korea Customs Service again raided Cho Yang-ho’s home in Pyeongchang-dong in Jongno District, central Seoul, after receiving a tip that there is a secret hidden space in the residence, which is also home to Lee and Cho Hyun-min. It is the second time that the agency has raided the house.

The customs agency failed to find the secret room in an initial raid last month, but reportedly succeeded in locating it on Wednesday. Details of what the agency found in the secret room have not been disclosed.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]