Back To Top

Seoul court again denies arrest warrant for wife of Korean Air chief

A Seoul court once again turned down a request for a warrant to arrest Lee Myung-hee, the wife of the Korean Air Lines chairman who has been accused of abusing her employees as well as unlawfully hiring domestic helpers from the Philippines.

“It is difficult to determine whether it is necessary to place Lee Myung-hee in custody,” the Seoul Central District Court said, rejecting the arrest warrant which was filed on Monday by prosecutors.

Authorities suspect that Lee, 69, along with her daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, illegally hired some 10 to 20 domestic workers from the Philippines over the course of some 10 years, by disguising them as Korean Air trainees.

This was the second time that an arrest warrant has been refused by the Seoul court. Earlier this month, a separate probe against Lee was launched, on charges that she frequently and verbally abused her employees, reportedly including her domestic helpers from the Philippines.

The court, however, rejected the prosecutors‘ request for an arrest warrant at the time, saying Lee was unlikely to flee and the accusations made against her were “disputable.”

Probes into Lee’s cases are taking place just four years after her daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, who served time for the infamous “nut rage” incident. Cho’s sister, Hyun-min, is also currently under investigation for allegedly throwing a cup of water at a manager’s face.

The alleged power abuse cases involving the Cho family are being cited as what Koreans call “gapjil,”a term that refers to abuse of people in lower ranks by those in higher positions.

Under the law, hiring a foreigner who is not married to a Korean national and or has ethnic Korean background as a domestic helper is subject to up to a three-year imprisonment or a fine up to 20 million won ($18,560).

By Claire Lee (

catch table
Korea Herald daum