The controversial owners of Korean Air Lines Co have been accused of illegally hiring Filipino housekeepers. Last month the head of the airline said his two daughters had resigned from their positions at the company after an uproar over allegations that they had abused their subordinates.

On Wednesday, the Seoul Immigration Office said they were investigating allegations against Lee Myung-hee, the wife of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, who was said to have hired about 20 Filipino housekeepers, The Korean Herald reported.

It was reported that the housekeepers allegedly worked for Lee and her eldest daughter Cho Hyun-ah, the former vice-president of Korean Air.

In a report by the Korea Joongang Daily, and an anonymous post in Blind, a corporate community app, the Cho family preferred to hire Filipino housekeepers so they could verbally abuse their housekeepers in Korean and the housekeepers could not understanding them.

The post also claimed that a Korean Air branch in the Philippines recruited Filipinos and deployed them to Korea as trainees, but when they arrived in Seoul they were sent to work as housekeepers.

A former driver of Lee Myung-hee said the passports of the Filipino housekeepers were confiscated by Lee and Korean Air staff to stop them leaving the country.

In Korea, only ethnic Koreans or immigrants through marriage can work as housekeepers. If found guilty, the Cho family could face a maximum penalty of three years in jail and a fine up to 20 million won (US$18,502).