Korean Air pilots and employees sue group boss and son

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-07-04 15:46 Updated : 2018-07-04 15:46
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[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- Unionized Korean Air pilots, employees and activists joined forces to file complaints with prosecutors Wednesday, accusing Hanjin Group chairman Cho Yang-ho and his son of taking private interests through the unfair transfer of trademark rights.

They demanded an investigation of Korean Air president Cho won-tae, 42, and his father for a breach of trust, insisting the country's top flag carrier has paid some 136.4 billion won ($122 million) in trademark royalties to Hanjin KAL since the airline transferred its trademark rights to the group's holding company in 2013.

Hanjin refuted any illegal transfer of trademark rights, saying Hanjin KAL has received legitimate payment through consultations with an external evaluation body. Like other tycoons who control their family-run conglomerates through a complex web of cross-shareholdings, the Cho family controls 29 percent in Hanjin KAL

State prosecutors have sought an arrest warrant for Cho Yang-ho, who is suspected of awarding improper contracts to companies controlled by his family, using company money to pay attorney fees for him and his family and using a borrowed name to run a pharmacy illegally.

Originally, the chairman was questioned for evading an inheritance tax, but prosecutors promised to secure concrete evidence through a corroborative investigation.

Hanjin has seen its image plunging due to a scandal involving the chairman's youngest daughter, Cho Hyun-min, who allegedly threw a glass cup and sprayed plum juice during a business meeting with advertising agency officials on March 16. She told investigators that she lost her temper because the advertising company did not properly answer her questions.

The scandal fueled widespread public anger, leading to multiple investigations into illegal activities by the chairman's wife and two daughters who have been questioned on charges of creating a slush fund, evading taxes, bringing in luxury foreign goods illegally, abusing and assaulting company employees and others

Cho Hyun-ah, the chairman's eldest daughter, was questioned by customs officials for bringing in personal goods purchased overseas without paying taxes. She was once arrested in 2014 for an onboard tantrum when served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than a bowl. She was imprisoned for a year for violating aviation law but she was released in May 2015 after an appeals court suspended her sentence.

Despite strong public demands for punishment, no family members have been arrested yet as court judges were reluctant to issue arrest warrants, citing no possibility of running away or destroying evidence.