Korean Air CEO’s widow and ‘nut-rage’ daughter avoid jail time for smuggling luxury goods
SEOUL: A South Korean court issued suspended sentences to the widow and daughter of late Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho for using the airline to smuggle luxury goods into the country.
The Incheon District court on Thursday sentenced widow Lee Myung-hee to six months in prison, suspended for a year, and fined her 7 million won (US$5,900). Lee’s daughter, Heather Cho, a former Korean Air vice president who previously spent five months in jail over a case that became known as the nut-rage incident, got a suspended sentence of eight months and a 4.8 million won fine.
The suspended sentences are the latest among a string of scandals for the chaebol family that is facing a complicated succession after the death of the Korean Air chairman in April. A public outcry in South Korea over the nut-rage episode re-ignited a long-running debate over whether the country’s big family-run conglomerates hold too much power and influence.
In the court case Thursday, Cho and her Korean Air employees were charged with smuggling goods worth nearly 90 million won (about US$75,000) on 202 occasions between January 2012 and May last year.
Lee was charged with smuggling goods worth nearly 40 million won on 46 occasions. The goods, including luxury clothes, fashion bags and earthenware, were smuggled aboard Korean Air planes disguised as items for the airline, according to Yonhap News.
Heather Cho grabbed headlines in 2014 after the heiress ordered a Korean Air plane back to the gate after scolding a flight attendant for the way a bag of macadamia nuts was served. Cho’s five months in prison came as a Seoul court sentenced her to one year in jail for usurping a pilot’s authority.
Earlier this week, the youngest daughter, Emily Cho, returned to work as an executive focused on social responsibility. She had relinquished her corporate duties last year after being accused of tossing water at a contractor. Seoul prosecutors cleared her of assault allegations.