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Korean Air “Nut Rage” Heiress Starts Public Feud With Brother in Battle for Control of Company

Korean Air “Nut Rage” Heiress Starts Public Feud With Brother in Battle for Control of Company

Photo Credit: Airbus
Story Highlights
  • Heather Cho accuses her brother of going against late father’s wishes
  • Cho shot to infamy in 2014 for the Korean Air ‘nut rage’ scandal
  • She has also been fined for using Korean Air to smuggle luxury goods
  • Company says it’s committed to restoring public faith in business

The controversial heiress of Korean Air’s parent company has started a public feud with her brother, accusing him of ruining the family business in a letter released by her attorney.  Cho Hyun-ah, who is also known as Heather Cho, became the centre of public attention in 2014 for an infamous ‘nut rage’ scandal which eventually landed her in jail for obstructing aviation scandal.

Cho’s younger brother, Won-tae took over as head of the sprawling family-owned South Korean conglomerate Hanjin Group in April after their late-father Cho Yang-ho died in April following a long battle with lung cancer.  Won-tae is also the chief executive of Korean Air, which is said to be the Hanjin Group’s biggest cash cow.

“Hanjin Group is moving away from the late chairman’s last words,” Cho said in a letter released by her attorney and translated into English by the Korean Yonhap news agency.

“The late chairman wanted the family to cooperate and run the business together,” the letter continued.

Cho found herself sidelined in the family-owned business by her father following the nut rage scandal.  She was accused of becoming enraged when macadamia nuts her served in a bag rather than a porcelain ramekin on a Korean Air flight set to depart New York JFK for Seoul.  Cho is said to have lashed out at the chief purser and forced the plane back to the gate to have the cabin crew member offloaded.

A South Korean court initially sentenced Cho to 12-months imprisonment but this was later reduced to a five-month jail term on appeal.

She was forced to step down as Vice President of Korean Air following the scandal but continued to be employed by the airline.  Since the nut rage disgrace, Cho has continued to make headlines following several more controversies – earlier this year, she was given a suspended prison sentence and fined for her involvement in a smuggling ring that involved using Korean Air to illegally bring luxury goods into South Korea without paying import tax.

Her ex-husband has also accused of her physically abusing him, although Cho’s legal team strenuously denied the allegations and threatened to sue her husband for defamation.  Controversy hasn’t escaped other family members either – her younger sister was forced to resign from the airline earlier this year after allegations emerged of her shoving an aide and throwing water over her.

Cho’s mother was also fined for smuggling luxury goods via Korean Air on over 200 0ccasions between 2006 and 2012.

Yonhap reported by Cho and her brother are currently embroiled in a feud over succession plans, including inheritance of their father’s shares in the company.

“We believe restoring our customers’ faith and enhancing the value of the company is late chairman Cho Yang-ho’s strong wish, as well as his dying instruction,” the Hanjin Group said in response to Cho’s allegations.

“We are deeply sorry to the people, our consumers and shareholders for the controversy at Hanjin Group. The management and all other staff members of the group have been doing their utmost to meet market expectations ever since Chairman Cho Yang-ho passed away,” the statement continued.

Unsurprisingly, public opinion in South Korea has increasingly turned against family-owned conglomerates – known as Chaebol – that dominate industry in the country.

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