It might not be even nearly on the same level as the original Watergate Scandal that gripped the Nixon Administration in the 1970’s but the youngest daughter of Korean Air’s chairman has certainly got herself in hot water (pun definitely intended) over an incident reminiscent of 2014’s ‘nut rage’ drama.
Cho Hyun-min, also known as Emily Cho, a senior vice president at Korea’s largest airline and the sister of ‘nut rage’ perpetrator, Cho Hyun-ah (Heather Cho) is alleged to have thrown a cup of water at an advertising agency manager late last week. Now unions are calling for her step down, the police are investigating and there are even calls to strip the word ‘Korean’ from the airline’s brand name.
Arriving in Seoul from a short vacation on Sunday, Cho told a local television network that she had been “foolish” to throw the cup – claiming she threw it to the floor, rather than at anyone’s face, as she struggled to contain her emotion. She claimed the anger demonstrated how passionate she was about her job.
While the advertising agency and the manager who was caught up in the incident have so far declined to comment, there’s been confirmation that police are investigating Cho on suspicion of assault.
In a statement, Korean Air said Cho had been suspended but refused to provide further comment until the outcome of the police investigation.
In December 2014, Cho’s sister made headlines around the world over the infamous ‘nut rage’ incident. She apparently became enraged that a flight attendant had served her macadamia nuts in a packet rather than a porcelain ramekin as her flight from New York’s JFK airport to Seoul prepared to takeoff.
After an angry confrontation, she allegedly assaulted the flight attendant and then demanded the plane return to the gate for the cabin crew member to be removed from the flight. After a subsequent investigation, she was found guilty of obstructing aviation safety and jailed for 12-months.
Critics of the airline claim the behaviour can be attributed to Korea’s so-called ‘chaebol’ – powerful, family-owned conglomerates. Korean Air has been privately owned by the Hanjin Group since 1969.
Thousands of people have now petitioned on the Korean government to strip the airline of the ‘Korean’ brand – over 50,000 signatures had been collected at the time of this report.
Meanwhile, three unions which represent pilots, cabin crew and other workers at the airline have called on Cho to stand down. In a highly unusual move, the unions have for the first time issued a joint statement decrying her behaviour.
They say all the efforts of Korean Air’s 20,000 employees “have collapsed with the sudden action of Cho Hyun-min.” They claim their members are being forced to feel guilty by association and are demanding that she immediately resigns.
Reuters has reported that Korean Air’s shares have collapsed 2.5% in the wake of the scandal as shares in its main rival, Asiana continues to rise.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.