For­mer Korean Air ex­ec­u­tive charged

Here’s An Of­fer You’ll Love!

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - By Youkyung Lee

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean pros­e­cu­tors on Wed­nes­day charged the for­mer Korean Air Line’s ex­ec­u­tive who achieved world­wide no­to­ri­ety by kick­ing a crew mem­ber off a flight with violating avi­a­tion se­cu­rity law and hin­der­ing a gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Cho Hyun-ah, who is the daugh­ter of the air­line’s chair­man, or­dered a se­nior crew mem­ber off a Dec. 5 flight after be­ing of­fered macadamia nuts in a bag, in­stead of on a dish. The plane re­turned to the gate at John F. Kennedy air­port to dis­em­bark the flight at­ten­dant.

Cho’s ac­tions amounted to “threat­en­ing the safety of the flight and caus­ing con­fu­sion in law and or­der,” pros­e­cu­tor Kim Chang-hee said dur­ing a brief­ing that was broad­cast live by lo­cal tele­vi­sion net­works.

She could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of all four charges she faces, ac­cord­ing to at­tor­ney Park Jin Ny­oung, spokesman for the Korean Bar As­so­ci­a­tion. Pros­e­cu­tors ac­cused her of forc­ing a flight to change its nor­mal route, which Park said was the most se­ri­ous charge with a max­i­mum prison sen­tence of 10 years. The three other charges she faces are the use of vi­o­lence against flight crew, hin­der­ing a gov­ern­ment probe and forc­ing the flight’s purser off the plane.

Sep­a­rately, pros­e­cu­tors have widened their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the “nut rage” in­ci­dent to ex­am­ine the ties be­tween the air­line and the trans­port min­istry after it was crit­i­cized for go­ing too easy on South Korea’s largest air­line. The majority of trans­port min­istry in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­volved in the probe pre­vi­ously worked at Korean Air.

Kim said Korean Air ex­ec­u­tives and em­ploy­ees in­ter­fered with the trans­port min­istry’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion by de­stroy­ing doc­u­ments and fab­ri­cat­ing ev­i­dence. He said a cur­rent ex­ec­u­tive at the air­line was charged with de­stroy­ing ev­i­dence and in­ter­fer­ing with the probe. A trans­port min­istry of­fi­cial was in­dicted for leak­ing se­crets about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Cho, the ex­ec­u­tive and the of­fi­cial were ar­rested last month and re­main in cus­tody.

Cho, who was Korean Air’s vi­cepres­i­dent over­see­ing cabin ser­vice, shamed and in­sulted crew mem­bers by yelling, throw­ing an ob­ject at the cabin wall and forc­ing them to kneel be­fore her, ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses.

Cho’s be­hav­iour caused an up­roar in South Korea and the air­line’s de­fence of her and its at­tempt to blame the crew mem­ber prompted more crit­i­cism. The in­ci­dent touched a nerve in a coun­try where the econ­omy is dom­i­nated by fam­ily-run con­glom­er­ates known as chae­bol that of­ten act above the law.

The first state­ment from Korean Air Lines blamed the crew mem­ber for mis­han­dling pas­sen­ger ser­vice. Later, the crew mem­ber, Park Chang-jin, told lo­cal me­dia Korean Air ex­ec­u­tives vis­ited his home and pres­sured him to lie to gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Cho’s fa­ther, the Korean Air chair­man, has re­moved his daugh­ter from all her roles at the air­line and its af­fil­i­ates and apol­o­gized for not rais­ing her prop­erly.

The Cho fam­ily’s di­rect stake in Korean Air is just 10 per cent but cross-share­hold­ings among Han­jin con­glom­er­ate com­pa­nies owned by the fam­ily give it ef­fec­tive con­trol.

Kim said pros­e­cu­tors are also in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Cho trav­elled for free in first class on Korean Air and whether the air­line gave up­grades to trans­port min­istry of­fi­cials.

The trans­port min­istry, after com­ing un­der fire for lack­ing im­par­tial­ity in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said last month it would pun­ish four of­fi­cials for mis­con­duct dur­ing the Korean Air in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

AHN YOUNG-JOON / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cho Hyun-ah, cen­tre, for­mer vice-pres­i­dent of Korean Air Lines, ar­rives at the Seoul Western Dis­trict Pros­e­cu­tors Of­fice in Seoul, South Korea. Hyun-ah could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of threat­en­ing the safety of a flight and caus­ing con­fu­sion in law and or­der.

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