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Korean Air heiress asks for forgiveness over ‘nut rage’

December 12, 2014
Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho and former vice president of the airline company, appears at Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board in western Seoul on Dec. 12, 2014, to be questioned for ordering a crew member to leave a plane over an alleged breach of snack-serving protocol. (Yonhap)

Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of Korean Air Chairman Cho Yang-ho and former vice president of the airline company, appears at Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board in western Seoul on Dec. 12, 2014, to be questioned for ordering a crew member to leave a plane over an alleged breach of snack-serving protocol. (Yonhap)

By Lee Joon-seung and Kim You Jin

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Former Korean Air Lines Co. vice president Cho Hyun-ah, who had forced a crew member to leave a plane over an alleged breach of snack-serving protocol, asked for forgiveness Friday in Korea over the incident that caused an uproar.

Appearing for questioning by the transportation ministry, the 40-year-old told reporters that she sincerely regretted her actions and that she will step down from all corporate posts.

“I will respond with sincerity to all questions raised in the probe,” she said before entering the aviation safety inspectors’ office at Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport.

Cho, also known by her English name Heather, said she will apologize personally to the chief purser and cabin crew involved in the incident. She, however, declined to comment on whether she yelled at the crew, or whether the captain of the flight had agreed to disembark the crew member.

Government investigators had summoned Cho to try to determine whether she caused a commotion and threatened the crew on the Dec. 5 flight from New York to Incheon. Authorities said if she did cause trouble and impeded flight operations, such actions could be in violation of the country’s aviation law and rules governing aircraft security.

In the incident referred to as “nut rage” in South Korea, the former vice president had ordered the chief purser of a Korean Air Airbus A380 jet, with some 250 passengers onboard, to leave the plane after a spat over how nuts were served. She was reportedly angered when a first-class flight attendant served her an unopened package of macadamia nuts instead of on a plate. She then took issue with the purser over his lack of knowledge of the service manual.

Cho and Korean Air took a lot of flak for the incident, with some predicting the negative publicity will invariably hurt the carefully built-up image of the full-service airline.

Officials at South Korea’s transportation ministry said the return to the gate delayed departure from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport by some 20 minutes, with the plane arriving 11 minutes behind schedule at Incheon International Airport. The plane had pushed back from the gate and was on the taxiway heading for the runway when it turned around.

State prosecutors are also looking into the matter. They raided Korean Air’s headquarters late Thursday to “safeguard” possible evidence related to the incident. They have said Cho Hyun-ah will be barred from leaving the country until the case is resolved.

Just hours before her appearance for questioning, her father, Korean Air CEO Cho Yang-ho, asked for the public’s forgiveness for the “foolish” actions of his daughter.

“I am making my apology as head of Korean Air and as a father,” he said. “I beg the people to blame me for the current situation, because everything is my fault… I failed to properly educate my daughter.”

He said his daughter will be removed from all of her official posts, not only within Korean Air and its board, but other companies in the Hanjin Group, which he heads as chairman.

“This will be implemented regardless of ongoing investigations by the transportation ministry and state prosecutors,” Cho said.

Hanjin is one of the top 10 family-run business conglomerates in South Korea, founded in 1945 by Cho Choong-hoon, the incumbent chairman’s father.

Asked whether he will step down from his post as head of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games Organizing Committee, the chairman said he won’t be able to decide by himself because it is a public post. He was tapped for the position in late July.

“Any decision taken will be to best serve the Games,” he said.

Before the uproar, Cho Hyun-ah was vice president of the airline’s flight service and hotel operations. She was CEO of KAL Hotel Network, Wangsan Leisure Development Co. and Hanjin Travel Service Co., all affiliates of Hanjin Group. She is currently a member of Korean Air’s board of directors, a title which requires a shareholders meeting to be dropped.

9 Comments

  1. Arjay

    December 12, 2014 at 3:11 AM

    typical uber rich arrogant tramp but she wont do any prison time because of her family. koreans should boycott KE until she is in prison

  2. james

    December 12, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    what amazes me is that no one on board, men, women, or children on board objected to her actions and challenge her on the plane! Typical meek Koreans??????

    • kjeeee

      December 12, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      her daddy owns the plane…

      we should not assume no one contested her actions… but when she got worked up, she acted “nutty” in front of everyone and may have scared them.

    • thomas

      December 13, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      you should know the facts before making idiotic statements…then again who says you are not an idiot.

  3. kjeeee

    December 12, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Does this officially make her a “nutjob”?

  4. sunnysidetong

    December 12, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    Hey, James..this is not the only incident for Koreans..It could happen to all the nationalities…only difference is this has been reported to the media…

  5. Betsy

    December 14, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    She has to grow up. And for Daddy, he should resign too. End of story!!

  6. Sy

    December 14, 2014 at 4:40 PM

    She made a national news on NPR (radio).
    There is a show called Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. They jokingly said if this happened in North Korea. It is really unbelievable.

  7. Pingback: A Little Nut Rage Is Good | Yerepouni Daily News

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