Noose Tightens on Korean Air Owner Family

      April 26, 2018 12:56

      The Korea Customs Service said Wednesday it launched an internal audit on suspicion that customs officials were given priority seats on Korean Air flights for helping the owner family smuggle in luxury goods.

      The KCS has raided Korean Air headquarters as well as the owner family's homes and has now set up a website for tipoffs on other alleged offenses.

      According to internal Korean Air e-mails that surfaced on Tuesday, a manager at the carrier's flight operations center told a staffer in charge of assigning seats that a director at the KCS at Incheon International Airport wanted a front-row seat in economy class, which offers more legroom, on his flight to Paris.

      The staffer replied two days later that the request was "reflected." A KCS official said, "We are questioning the director mentioned in the e-mail."

      A website set up by Korean Air staff to blow the whistle on alleged offenses committed by the founding family is filling up with testimony about alleged ties between the carrier and the KCS. "Founding family members' luggage is passed right through customs," one post read. "A customs official just looks the other way."

      "Big cargo can't pass through x-ray scanners and goes through the arrival gate, but customs officials just let it pass through," wrote another staffer. 

      Other posts allege that KCS officials either have their Korean Air seats upgraded or are treated to meals and liquor. Airline chairman Cho Yang-ho "distributes smuggled whiskey to KCS staffers, who drink it at after-work gatherings," wrote one.

      Critics worry that the KCS's own investigation will be a whitewash. "Who is investigating whom?" one poster asked.

      Some Korean Air staffers are suspicious of the intentions of the KCS and are urging coworkers not to cooperate with their probe. Others want the police to handle the investigation.

      Meanwhile, police said they will summon Cho's daughter Hyun-min for questioning on charges that she assaulted an advertising company employee during a meeting by allegedly throwing a bottle of water in her face.

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