SEOUL, South Korea — Korean Air chief Cho Yang-Ho on Friday, January 30, apologized for his daughter’s behaviour to a South Korean court, where she is on trial for air safety violations after a now notorious “nut rage” incident.
Cho Hyun-Ah faces a maximum 10-year sentence if convicted of the charges, which stem from an episode in December when she allegedly forced the chief purser off a New York-Seoul flight, compelling the taxiing plane to return to the gate so he could disembark.
The 40-year-old, who was a KAL vice president at the time, took exception to being served macadamia nuts she had not asked for – and in a bag, not a bowl – in an incident that has sparked public outrage in South Korea.
Speaking from the witness stand on Friday, Cho Yang-Ho said his daughter was to blame for the outburst and that she should not have forced the crew off the plane under any circumstances.
“It was all her fault because she could not control her emotions,” he told the court, pledging to reform the airline’s corporate culture after the incident.
“I sincerely apologize to the flight attendants involved… and company employees. I also apologize for causing public concern.”
Cho Hyun-Ah has been in custody since December 30 ahead of the trial, where she also faces another 5 years in jail on additional charges of coercing staff to give false testimony and interfering in the execution of duty.
She has denied physically assaulting the chief steward, Park Chang-Jin, who says she made him kneel and beg for forgiveness while jabbing him with a service manual.
Her lawyers have argued the charges were based on “exaggerated statements” and that there had been no breach of safety laws, given that the plane had not even reached the runway when it turned back.
Kim Do-Hee, the first-class flight attendant who served the nuts, testified in court on Friday that Cho threw a booklet at her chest, while pushing and yelling for her to get off the plane.
“I believe she was aware of the fact that the plane was moving,” Kim said, adding she had made a false statement before investigators because she was afraid of losing her job.
“I’ve been told not to say anything about physical abuse and loud voices,” she said.
KAL chief Cho Yang-Ho said no crew members would lose their jobs over the incident or subsequent investigations.
The incident triggered a huge public backlash and was seen as emblematic of a generation of spoilt and arrogant offspring of owners of the giant family-run conglomerates, or “chaebols,” that dominate the South Korean economy.
The story hit international headlines and was seen as something of a national embarrassment, with South Korean media commentators suggesting Cho had shamed the country.
A company executive was also indicted for evidence-tampering and a transport ministry official was accused of leaking details of a government probe into the case.
The transport ministry plans to sanction KAL with a limited flight route ban that could last for up to a month, or fines of up to $2 million. — Rappler.com