Police seek arrest of Korean Air 'nut rage' matriarch

Seoul (AFP) –


The woes of the troubled Korean Air dynasty deepened further Thursday as Seoul Police announced they were seeking an arrest warrant for matriarch Lee Myung-hee over allegations she assaulted employees.

Lee, 69, faces multiple allegations of assault against drivers and housekeepers from her personal staff as well as construction workers renovating her home and building a Korean Air-affiliated hotel.

"Lee used her superior status to habitually abuse, insult and injure the socially disadvantaged without a sense of guilt," according to a statement from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

"Despite the gravity of the case, she has denied the allegations by saying she has no recollection, raising concerns over destruction of evidence," it added.

Lee was summoned by the police twice this week for questioning over the alleged abuses.

They range from cursing and screaming at employees to kicking, slapping and even throwing a pair of scissors at them.

A video that emerged last month showed a woman, reportedly Lee, shoving a female construction worker and throwing a pile of documents on the ground.

A Korean Air spokesman declined to comment on the matter citing the ongoing investigation.

Lee's two daughters, who held management positions at South Korea's top carrier, became viral sensations for their own temper tantrums which were dubbed the "nut rage" and "water rage" scandals online.

Her older daughter Cho Hyun-ah made global headlines in 2014 for kicking a cabin crew chief off a Korean Air plane for being served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than a bowl. She later served a short prison sentence.

Earlier this year, her younger sister Cho Hyun-min was accused of throwing a drink at an advertising agency manager's face in a fit of rage during a business meeting.

Their father, Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, issued a public apology over the "immature" behaviour of his offspring and removed his two daughters from their management roles.

Authorities have since launched a flurry of official probes into the family's reported abuse of workers, as well as smuggling and immigration law violations.

But that has done little to placate employees. Hundreds of Korean Air workers have held weekly protests in Seoul demanding the ouster of the Cho clan from the country's flag carrier -- a rare act of defiance in the country that prizes loyalty among workers.

The current chairman's late father founded the Hanjin Group -- the South's 14th-largest business group that runs logistics, transport and hotel businesses as well as Korean Air.