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Korean Air chief's wife questioned in latest 'rage' scandal

Lee Myung-hee accused of assaulting construction workers and household staff

Lee Myung-hee (center-left) reported to Seoul's police headquarters Monday for questioning over allegations that she abused and assaulted workers.   © AP

SEOUL -- Police have questioned the wife of the Korean Air Lines' chairman for allegedly abusing company and household workers, adding to a litany of suspected wrongdoing by the founding family that includes customs violations and angry outbursts at employees.

Lee Myung-hee reported to Seoul police headquarters around 10 a.m. Monday. The Yonhap News Agency quoted a police source saying that she was being questioned "over allegations of abuse, obstruction of business, and assault." Police have yet to decide whether to seek a warrant for her arrest.

A video recently surfaced of a person thought to be Lee, the wife of Cho Yang-ho, chairman of Korean Air parent Hanjin Group, shoving and verbally abusing construction workers working at a Hanjin Group hotel in 2014. She is also accused of abusing domestic staff and her chauffeur.

Hanjin is one of the country's biggest conglomerates, or chaebols, which are under increasing public scrutiny in South Korea after a wave of scandals.  

Lee apologized for "making trouble" in a statement to reporters Monday morning.

Chairman Cho himself is alleged to have avoided paying inheritance tax on overseas assets, and the entire family is under investigation for dodging import duties on luxury goods by having Korean Air employees smuggle the items past customs.

Cho's oldest daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, drew international attention in 2014 for ordering a Korean Air plane back to the gate in anger over how she was served macadamia nuts. She is now suspected, along with her mother, of illegally employing women from the Philippines as housekeepers. Her younger sister, Cho Hyun-min, has been accused of mistreating employees at an advertising agency.

As of Friday, employees of Korean Air and other Hanjin companies had been protesting in the streets for four weeks, calling for Cho and his family to resign. The protests are likely to continue after the latest developments.

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