SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The widow and daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho appeared in a South Korean court on Thursday over charges they unlawfully hired housekeepers from the Philippines. The case extends the legal saga of Korean Air’s founding family following the funeral of Cho, who died at 70 due to illness in Los Angeles last month, weeks after shareholders voted to remove him from the company’s board over the scandals surrounding his family.
Lee Myung-hee and her daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, refused to answer reporters’ questions following their appearance at the Seoul Central District Court.
Prosecutors charged Lee and Cho Hyun-ah in December, saying they unlawfully recruited and hired 11 housekeepers from the Philippines by documenting them as Korean Air trainees from 2013 to early last year. Under South Korean law, foreigners must obtain visas given to marriage migrants or people of Korean heritage to work as housekeepers.
Prosecutors are seeking a 15 million won ($12,900) fine for Cho Hyun-ah, who reportedly admitted to wrongdoing. Lee reportedly said she did not know that the Filipino women were hired illegally.
Cho Hyun-ah, then a company executive, gained notoriety in 2014 after she ordered a Korean Air passenger plane to return to a terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York because she was angry that the crew served her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a plate.
The incident, dubbed “nut rage,” generated international headlines and severely tarnished the Cho family’s image. Cho Hyun-ah was released from jail in South Korea in May 2015 after the top court suspended her sentence over the case. Lee is facing separate criminal charges for allegedly abusing her staff.
A senior Korean Air executive said Cho Yang-ho had been treated for an unspecified lung illness since late last year and that his conditions worsened following the shareholders’ vote, apparently because of shock and stress. The executive didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.