May 03, 2019 10:50
The late Hanjin Group chairman's widow and daughter appeared in court on Thursday for the first of several criminal trials the disgraced family face.
Lee Myung-hee and her daughter Cho Hyun-ah, who became a worldwide laughing stock in the "nut rage" scandal, face charges of illegally employing 11 maids from the Philippines by passing them off as Korean Air trainees.
Lee denied having any knowledge of the particulars although she had asked her husband's secretary to look for foreign maids, and claimed the matter was handled by her husband’s office. But Cho, who had been waiting outside until her turn came, admitted the charges, apologized and pleaded for leniency.
"I gave birth to twins at a late age and had to hire a household helper from the Philippines due to the difficulty of raising children and holding down a job," she said. "I apologize to staff who suffered damage because of me. I regret failing to consider the legal ramifications and ask you to give me another chance."
She has been given several chances already, escaping a lengthy jail sentence in 2015 for assaulting a purser and forcing a plane to return to the gate when she was served nuts in a bag instead of a bowl in first class on a Korean Air flight from New York, each time tearfully declaring herself a reformed character.
She also faces separate charges for being part of a luxury-goods smuggling racket with her mother and sister. Her lawyer also played the pity card, saying Cho "faces the prospect of raising her children alone, because she is in the process of divorcing her husband while grieving for the death of her father."
Cho Yang-ho died in Los Angeles last month just days after shareholders ousted him from the board of Korean Air over the never-ending scandals.
The court fined Cho Hyun-ah W15 million and slapped the airline with a W30 million fine (US$1=W1,165). Lee will have to appear in court again because she denies the charges and more witnesses will have to be called.
After the trial, Lee, who is also accused of habitually maltreating staff, hugged her daughter and was heard to say, "It's all my fault. I'm sorry, my baby."
The two left the courtroom separately.
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