Korean Air matriarch probed over assault

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Korean Air matriarch probed over assault

Police began formally investigating Lee Myung-hee, the wife of Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho, for verbal and physical assault against employees on Sunday.

The chairwoman of Hanjin’s nonprofit Ilwoo Foundation has been accused of abusing hotel construction site employees in Incheon in May 2014, after a video allegedly showing her shoving and berating employees went viral through local media outlets.

According to the police, it has secured evidence from several victims confirming Lee had assaulted employees and obstructed businesses. The police has been examining whether the accusations have factual grounds before entering formal investigation into the case since last month.

As soon as the police finishes its investigations with witnesses and organizes the evidence to prove Lee guilty, it plans to summon Lee like it did for her daughter Cho Hyun-min.

Police have also decided not to continue pursuing an arrest warrant for Lee’s daughter and Korean Air heiress Cho Hyun-min after Seoul’s prosecution rejected an initial request.

Gangseo Police Precinct in western Seoul had requested a warrant for the arrest of the former Korean Air senior executive on charges of assault and obstruction of business on Friday. However, Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office rejected the request later that day, citing insufficient proof that Cho is trying to destroy evidence or run away from the investigation.

In Korea, only the prosecution can ask the court to issue a warrant.

The police are facing another unexpected obstacle in their investigation into Cho - the two alleged victims apparently don’t want her to be punished.

Assault can only be punished in Korea if the victim is willing to pursue punishment. If neither of the two advertising executives that Cho allegedly threw fruit juice and a glass cup at in March are willing to go down that route, Cho simply cannot be punished.

The exception is if a dangerous object is involved. If police could prove that Cho threw the glass cup directly at the victims, then the police would be able to proceed without their consent. Police have already ruled out this option after talking to witnesses.

The police are focusing on Cho’s remaining charge of obstruction of business. According to police, Cho’s alleged physical and verbal violence brought a two-hour meeting to an abrupt close after just 15 minutes, disrupting the advertising agency’s business.

Cho is claiming that it was part of her business as she was in charge of the project discussed at the meeting.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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