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Customs authorities take to instant messengers to keep anonymity of Korean Air whistleblowers

South Korea’s customs authorities have taken to instant messengers KakaoTalk and Telegram to help whistleblowers anonymously share evidence of the embattled Hanjin owner family’s breach of the law. 

Incheon Main Customs, a local unit of the Korea Customs Service in charge of major international airports in Incheon and Gimpo, started an “open chat room” on the nation’s popular messenger app KakaoTalk on Tuesday, through which users can share evidence with all participants in the chat room. Those who enter the chat room may use pseudonyms, without revealing photos of themselves. Telegram users can also send evidence directly to the IMC’s Telegram account. 

The chat room is part of the customs authorities’ probe into the owner family of Hanjin and Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho on charges of smuggling and tax evasion. The KCS also raided the offices of Korean Air and airports.

This came after a presumed employee of Korean Air, an air carrier unit of Hanjin Group, said in a different open chat room on the condition of anonymity that Cho family members had flown in private goods such as clothes, foodstuffs and furniture via Korean Air planes. The source added the goods had not gone through customs inspections.

Screen shots of an
Screen shots of an "open chat room" of KakaoTalk created by the Incheon Main Customs (Son Ji-hyoung / The Korea Herald)
Recently revealed audio and video clips showing temper tantrums of people alleged to be Cho’s wife and daughter have drawn public criticism, triggering multifaceted probes into the conglomerate by police, customs authorities and even the Fair Trade Commission.

Meanwhile, the KCS on Tuesday started looking into alleged collusion between Korean Air and the IMC. 

By Son Ji-hyoung