'We're not slaves': Korean Air pilots protest abuse by elite founding family

Korean Air staff protest abuse by daughters of owner Cho Yang-ho

About 500 people gathered outside the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, from 7 p.m. Friday for a candlelight vigil to demand the ouster of the Cho family.

Customs officials are also looking into whistle-blowers' assertions that for years the family have used Korean Air flights to smuggle luxury goods into the country while avoiding import tariffs.

Numerous protesters on Friday were dressed in work uniforms or in all black, with their faces covered by sunglasses or Guy Fawkes masks for fear of being identified by their employer.

The South Korean airline conglomerate has faced mounting public outrage after the chairman's youngest daughter Cho Hyun-min was accused of throwing a drink at people at a business meeting last month.

Is real reform possible at South Korea's chaebols?

"We can't put up with Cho family's abuses any more", Park Chang-jin, a flight attendant involved in the "nut rage" incident, told his protesting co-workers, according to Reuters news agency.

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Her younger sister Cho Hyun-min recently emerged into the unflattering limelight with her own tantrum - dubbed "water rage" - when she allegedly splashed fruit juice over a business associate. The crowd grew as people that were not connected to Korean Air showed up to show their disapproval of chaebol family power abuse.

"The owners are living in clover while the employees are suffering from extreme stress", he added. I love Korean Air. The case sparked shocking revelations from employees and others who had worked for Cho's wife, Lee Myung-hee, about how she had verbally and physically insulted them for years.

The Seoul Gangseo Police Station was quoted as saying that it requested a warrant to detain Cho Hyun-min, a daughter of Korean Air Lines Chairman Cho Yang-ho, on charges of assault and obstruction of business.

It reflects growing resentment against perceived outlandish behaviour by the elite founding families and the view that they treat publicly listed companies as their private firms.

The younger Cho stepped down from her position at the airline after her father, Cho Yang-ho, its chairman, apologized for the behavior of his daughters.

In the KakaoTalk chatroom a number of guidelines were shared until right before the vigil so employees can still continue their work at Korean Air after the protest. Cho has denied any wrongdoing.

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