Korean Air Heiresses Accused Of Illegally Smuggling Goods Into Korea

Filed Under: Korean Air

Two Korean Air heiresses who have been in the news the past few years for their bad tempers are now being investigated for something else.

Most of you probably remember the viral 2014 incident in which Heather Cho went berserk after a flight attendant served her nuts in a bag rather than in a ramekin. She was flying first class from New York to Seoul Incheon, and demanded that the flight attendants get on their knees to apologize, that the plane be turned around, and that the flight attendant who served her incorrectly be offloaded.

She ended up being sentenced to one year in jail for obstructing aviation safety, though she was released after three months. As you’d expect, she was fired from the airline, though her sister took on many of her former roles, and promised to avenge her. Now Heather Cho is making a return to her dad’s company, though she’ll be managing the company’s portfolio of hotels, rather than the airline.

Then last week her sister, who is still at Korean Air, was accused of assault. Specifically, it was reported that Cho Hyun-min was being accused of throwing a cup of water in the face of an advertising agency employee at a recent meeting. Apparently she was dissatisfied with the agency’s work, and then “yelled and threw a cup of water at the employee.”

The drama isn’t over for these two ladies, though. Now there are reports that the Cho family has been illegally importing luxury goods to Korea without paying customs duties, which the Korea Customs Service is investigating.

Media outlets are reporting that the two sisters regularly avoided customs taxes after buying luxury goods worth millions of won outside Korea. An anonymous Korean Air employee said that the family had Korean Air officials at overseas offices purchase luxury goods for them, then they were flown to Korea on Korean Air planes, and then they were carried out of the airport by airline employees, bypassing local customs.

According to Korean law, items worth $600 or more must be reported to the customs office, while the Cho sisters allegedly brought in handbags, furniture, and food, worth significantly more.

I’ll be watching for the outcome of this investigation, as I’m sure many people in Korea are. This couldn’t happen to nicer people, eh?

(Tip of the hat to SQflyer)

  1. “An anonymous Korean Air employee said that the family had Korean Air officials at overseas offices purchase luxury goods for them, then they were flown to Korea on Korean Air planes, and then they were carried out of the airport by airline employees, bypassing local customs.”

    Wow… From the title I was expecting they were just bringing in the goods themselves when traveling, which would be objectionable and illegal but not a criminal conspiracy. Using their airline as a personal black market? The chaebol families really do feel above the law.

  2. Let’s be fair to the Koreans. They seem to have a lot of patience for bullshit, but when that patience runs out, it runs out in a big way.

    See the recent impeachment of their president as a case study.

  3. @christian makes a good point. In their case it’s just a power play. Showing the middle finger to democracy and law. But when the trumps do it, it is really about money, because they are broke ass and they know they will get away with anything because their followers are rebeling against anything that has left them behind (even common sense) and so will protect them. So deplorables all of them.

  4. The uber-spoilt and arrogant children and grandchildren of the founders of the big Chaebol companies (Samsung, LG, Korean Air, Lotte, etc.) are finally rallying the ‘little people’ against them. Their quest for power, wealth is reaching the limit. A revolt is brewing throughout Korea against these self-anointed gods. To quote Oprah: ‘Their time is…UP!.

  5. @ Christian

    Of course they hate to pay even 5 cents.
    Remember the repugnant Leona Helmsley, the ” Queen of Mean” of Helmsley Hotels. ” we don’t pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes”. At least in the US they threw her in jail, even past 70 years old.

  6. Oh the overly charming Cho sisters!..Cruella de Vil looks more like a saint with halo and wings comparing to these two. I believe this family has definitely missed their century in this world! Who have expected that they have not only got an appaling attitude towards their countrymen, they even actively support and commit tax evasion..one has not enough of all those billions of dollars in wealth, are they!..the richer you are, the more penuriously you get! This family think they are above and beyond any reproach on this world..
    I am definitely getting some popcorn here and sit on my sofa and will gladly follow this “ancien regime” drama..perhaps an ending a la marie antoinette..

  7. The salacious and scandalous lives of the chaebol families seem way more interesting than your average Korean TV drama.

  8. This sort of Customs tax dodge takes place here in America every day. As a solo frequent International traveler I was, until recently, a prime target for a Customs search. I’ve been much luckier in recent years since Global Entry but going back a few years, I was once taken to Secondary and another woman there had over €50,000 in Gucci goods in her luggage, all undeclared. I also thought like @Christian that why not declare and pay, since she obviously had financial clout. Instead, she ended up in this huge mess, not sure if she just paid fines and tax or faced criminal liability.

  9. This is example number one why blogs should not be considered “news” and be liable for content. We wonder why most millennials (and, well, everyone else, lol) get their news from Facebook and go wild? Here it is. While this may be correct and all the facts are right, the bottom line is that Lucky is not even close to being a journalist and should not be reporting allegations for which he has no credibility or credentials to do so. Give us your opinion on whether the soft product on Singapore was adequate. That, we love. But please, leave the accusations you promote as “news” for accountable writers that understand the power of their words. Do it so that we might one day restore some level of integrity in our society. Be a reviewer, Lucky. Not a drama maker.

  10. @Lucky did you hear what @Stuart said..be careful!..You are pissing some regional readers right now..

    It is probdbly time to publish the TK flight installment..some here just do want to be appealed to..

  11. This is aviation news and Lucky’s blog. Meanwhile, TPG posted today about getting his crystal reading in Indio while hanging with Z list celebrities.

  12. Lol, these South Korean chaebols need to be outlawed.
    The citizens should demand change through legislation.

  13. @Stuart: Give me a break, what an asinine comment. Lucky wasn’t reporting this or even acting as a journalist. He was relaying something which was reported by Korea Joongang Daily (he provides the link) which is a major, reputable newspaper in Korea. I would agree with you if Lucky was getting his information from the social media rumour mill, but he’s not. He’s talking about stuff that’s appearing in mainstream news media and already reported by those credible, credentialed journalists you like. The journalists are doing their work and @Lucky is using the blog to discuss it. That’s exactly what blogs are for.

  14. I agree with Debit. Hillary Clinton made a huge mistake when she called half of Trump supporters “deplorable.” She should have said all of them are deplorable.

  15. @mallthus: “…let’s be fair to the Koreans.”
    We should have let McArthur leave them to the North.

  16. @ Donna. Yes, and read how actual journalism is presented in the Reuters article. It says clearly that they officials are “looking into allegations.” Not quite the same as Lucky and his approach of a finale exclaiming, “This couldn’t happen to nicer people, eh?”

  17. @Kris S
    I’m glad Oprah is speaking for the little people, as if she isn’t a multi-billionaire.

  18. @Stuart

    I recommend to just follow the situation unfolds itself..if the Cho family is innocent..than this whole situation is finished and everybody goes back to their daily lives..if not than expect a huge uproar and the Korean society will want an open revelation oft the whole truth..

  19. “Millions of Won” is only worth thousands of US dollars. I’m sure it was a lot more than that.

  20. @mallthus,

    Couldn’t agree more. The key point here is the very fact this news is being reported. This indicates more than anything that patience is wearing very thin in Korea with this family. The normal “veil” of protection for chaebol families seems to disappearing in this specific case, with these sisters…. watch this space…

  21. Stuart is missing the point. This is a personal blog, not some sort of an official news page. The author can write whatever he wants, and that includes giving his opinion on whether or not these two ladies are nice people (or not).

  22. @Stuart – A few reasons why you should shut it:

    1) It’s Ben’s blog.
    2) You read it for free, so it’s not like you are paying for something and not getting what you paid for.
    3) Some of us, many of whom have jobs outside the airline industry and only read one or two blogs, appreciate Ben’s bringing news items like these to our attention.
    4) Have you noticed you don’t have to pay anything to read the blog?
    5) If you don’t like this sort of story, why not just skip over stories like this one and just read the flight and hotel reviews? Ben’s home page makes it really easy to identify the subject of each story.
    6) And skipping articles has no cost to you, since the blog, as I may have mentioned, is 100% free.
    7) This is a blog, and the nature of blogs is to combine news with observations and opinion. Ben does not claim to be a journalist.
    8) Exactly what part of “FREE” do you NOT BLOODY UNDERSTAND?

  23. Ahh, I wish Americans would be just as courageous as the South Koreans and rise up against the 1%. Instead we have the sad spectacle of an insouciant populace happily eating cake and obsessing about Kim K’s butt while their government and elites merrily throttle freedom and democracy, lie openly, and then bomb other human beings abroad to smithereens. I hope the two heiresses get their comeuppance but I also hope that Americans and the West will become more humane and not try to dominate everyone.

  24. I like reading about aviation and travel news . I found this article interesting though not world shaking . I imagine a similar attraction draws people to gossip shows .
    If Ben’s writing makes you unhappy DON’T READ IT !

  25. A “blog” that comes up in “News” sections when searching these names or incident and is met with this sort of hyperbole is exactly how Trump got elected. We would like to say “don’t read it” but in fact many do – if only by accident and form opinions as such. Yes, many of these people may be somewhat challenged in understanding the difference between a blog and journalism. Which is why I agree that a blog should be just that, a blog, and why Lucky’s reviews and opinions on a product is the foremost importance. But for him to slant opinion about an investigation into human lives, an investigation that every journalist has made clear is “ongoing” – is completely irresponsible. “This could not happen to nicer people” is more than a blog opinion. This is Lucky, who has a voice in the community of airline news and is respected globally, telling the world that he has essentially decided they are guilty. Which they may be. But let’s let the officials decide and not the “Court of Bloggers.”

  26. @ Stuart

    a bit too much!..
    @Lucky do not take this wrong..a voice in the travel community..yes, when they know about @Lucky and appreciate what he do or how he do it!
    ..respected globally?..I would not go that [email protected] is a famous blogger and an avid traveller..he is not the Pope or Mother Teresa..he is one funny and intelligent guy with a heart on the right spot..who is often too mousey and let himself scamed or talked down or get intimated lightly..
    @Lucky can tell through his blog anything he wants..but in the end of the day..WE as readers still decide, of course if you have a functioning brain, what we hear or wanted to hear and react to it as we wish!..Be reminded akways [email protected] with a oinch of salt..in your case probably a barrel of salt!
    And by the way you can calm down together with your teatime girls..I mean you and the Cho sisters..and yes let the Korean officials decide..hopefully not the corrupt ones under their payroll..to decide over the matter..
    The court of bloggers?!..what are you smoking man?

  27. Why is this such a center piece of focus on this blog? Has the blog changed to One Korean at a Time?

  28. @Stuart I know what exactly is being alleged. Thus, I can definitely tell that this is much toned down article than what is being actually reported in Korea.
    What is being alleged:
    Cho threw a cup ‘full of’ water to her subcontractors (yes. Both the cup and water altogether)
    Some flight attendents doubled up as personal couriers of Cho family: they had carried all kinds of goods (allegedly eggs from Cho family farm) on their laps, while sitting on jumpseats.
    Some additional allegations regarding this smuggling matter includes declaring the luxury goods “COMAT” (company materials) on aircraft cargo manifest, and so on.
    I am fully aware that you also might be a poor soul who have to write such comments to keep your job (and your body) intact, but I must say that what you wrote simply don’t make any sense.

  29. @Jackie

    It is the centre piece at the moment as there is nothing interesting to read and comment on..
    Just sorry for Koreans and other Asian socities who are still ruled and strongly influenzed by ruling elites..it is time in these socities that normal people start to realize they are not slaves and they have rights to evolve like anybody else..
    In some parts of the world you still feel and see we are not only years apart but centuries apart!

  30. @Jay. Again, I do not dispute the allegations or the reputation of these sisters. But the customs violations are being investigated and there has not been a verdict at this point according to proper news articles. As such I think it a bit too soon for Lucky to be throwing shade and affecting opinion. That was my point. No matter how bad the person, one can at least allow for proper process before humiliating them in a blog read by tens of thousands.

  31. @Stuart

    the point of humiliating themselves..I believe we already past that threshold long way ago..the Cho sisters already made their stand effortlessly in conveying every sensible human being in this planet that they do not care what others think about them..they are chaebols!..
    Oh believe me they will get their proper process if the Korean peope play their cards perfectly!..

    And again Stuart.. @Lucky can write what he wants on his blog..I believe your the only one here who is deeply affected over @Lucky’s way of reporting..the rest..just do not bother if @Lucky get too excited with his fingers…typing such reports or whatever!..

  32. Look,
    at my next party in Palm Beach I want to invite her. She sounds absolutely over the top!

  33. @Dan Allen

    I believe it will be a huge relief in ROK if you will keep them with you in Palm Beach..as in for ever!

    Just do not give them nuts without ramekins or to easy with drinks in glasses..do not forget to Kotau a hundred times every morning..they want to feel your fear, your everlasting obeisance and most of all your undestructable obedience..

    Believe me your are in for a wonderful ride..you can bet your whaspy bum on it!..

  34. Another example where the Koreans have shown themselves to be smarter than the average white American.

    Well done Korea.

  35. Definitely a good joob for the Koreans!..they are earning my respect! No BS here!..Wish the people and country all the best..to the so called first world elite societies on this planet..exactly that is how you deal with such kinds of people..you hold them accountable for their failures!..

  36. @mallthus

    “Let’s be fair to the Koreans. They seem to have a lot of patience for bullshit, but when that patience runs out, it runs out in a big way”

    Brilliant. I completely agree!

    These women, this family (or at least the kids are absolutely disgusting)!! But then they know the truth about reality and so do not care.

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