Arrest warrant sought for former Korean Air VP

December 24, 2014
Korean Airline ex-vice president Heather Cho (Korea Times file)

Korean Airline ex-vice president Cho Hyun-ah (Korea Times file)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Prosecutors sought an arrest warrant Wednesday for the former vice president of South Korea’s top airline, Korean Air Lines Co., at the center of a controversial air-rage incident.

Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, resigned earlier this month after a national uproar over her conduct aboard a Seoul-bound Korean Air flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

She ordered the cabin crew chief of the plane that was already on the taxiway to get off because she was displeased about the way she was served her macadamia nuts — in an unopened pack instead of on a plate. She chastised the crew for not following the service manual for first-class passengers.

The flight, with some 250 other passengers aboard, had to return to the gate to deplane the purser, causing an 11-minute delay in its arrival at Seoul’s main gateway, Incheon International Airport.

Charges against Cho include violation of the aviation law, coercion and interference in the execution of duty, said prosecutors at the Seoul Western Prosecutors’ Office probing the case

During questioning by prosecutors last week, Cho had flatly denied that she had physically assaulted the chief purser, prosecution officials said.

The prosecution office, however, concluded that she had pushed the flight attendant, based on the testimony of passengers and other flight attendants at the scene.

The prosecution office also sought an arrest warrant for a company executive, only identified by his surname Yeo, on charges of ordering employees to delete an initial report of the incident.

A Seoul court is scheduled to hold a hearing early next week to review the prosecution’s request and determine whether to issue an arrest warrant for Cho, court officials said.

Also Wednesday, the prosecution office raided the residence and the office of a transport ministry official accused of leaking some details of the ministry’s investigation into the incident.

The transport ministry official surnamed Kim, who formerly worked for Korean Air, is suspected of having made illegal contact with a Korean Air executive dozens of times over the three days after the ministry opened its probe into the incident on Dec. 8.