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Korean Air chief’s wife charged over illegally hiring Filipino housekeepers

/ 05:10 PM June 20, 2018

Lee Myung-hee, wife of Korean Air`s chairman, arrives at the Seoul Central District Court on Wednesday. THE KOREA HERALD

A Seoul court arraigned the wife of Korean Air’s chairman Wednesday to determine whether to issue an arrest warrant prosecutors requested for her on charges of illegally hiring Filipino housekeepers.

Lee Myung-hee, 69, wife of the national flag carrier’s chairman, Cho Yang-ho, is accused of hiring about 20 maids from the Philippines over the past 10 years without the correct visas. Prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for her on Monday.

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It was the second time that an arrest warrant had been sought for her. The first warrant was requested earlier this month on charges Lee habitually assaulted and insulted company employees and others, but the court rejected the request saying the charges against her were disputable and that she was unlikely to flee.

After arriving at the Seoul Central District Court, Lee refused to answer questions from reporters, including whether she ordered the hiring of foreign housekeepers, only saying that she will undergo arraignment in a sincere manner.

The court is expected to decide whether to issue a warrant for her late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Lee was the third member of the family to undergo criminal investigations, after her two daughters did so on charges of abusing company staff and others under their influence, including the famous “nut rage” incident involving her eldest daughter.

Officials said Lee is suspected of hiring the housekeepers from the Southeast Asian nation by sponsoring them with traineeship visas in violation of the law. To work as housekeepers in Korea, a foreigner must obtain a visa that is issued to either ethnic Koreans from overseas or those married to Koreans.

The authorities suspect Lee had the airline’s human resources department and its Manila branch recruit the housekeepers. Korean Air officials from the two offices have also been questioned by immigration investigators.

During questioning last week, Lee acknowledged part of the charges against her, saying the family has used Filipino housekeepers for decades since the time her mother-in-law was alive. But she rejected suspicions of her involvement in bringing the maids into the country.

Meanwhile, a local TV station reported fresh video footage of a woman presumed to be Lee cursing her chauffeur and using violence against him. It was the latest footage of Lee’s alleged mistreatment of people. A 2004 clip has already shown a woman resembling Lee physically and verbally abusing construction workers.

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