Toronto Star

Officials face punishment over handling of ‘nut rage’


SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA— Four South Korean officials will be punished for improper conduct during an investigat­ion into a former Korean Air Lines executive who forced a flight to return over a bag of macadamia nuts, the Transport Ministry said Monday.

The punishment­s could include dismissals, salary reductions or formal reprimands, according to Shin Eun-Chul, the official who headed the ministry’s investigat­ion. The ministry also issued warnings to four other lower-ranking officials who were involved in the investigat­ion.

Earlier this month, then-Korean Air executive Cho Hyun-Ah, the daughter of the airline’s chairman, forced a plane that was preparing to take off in New York to return to the gate and kicked off the chief flight attendant because she had been served nuts in a bag, not on a plate.

The ministry has been under fire following revelation­s that some officials leaked informatio­n and committed other improper acts during the investigat­ion.

One of the officials to be reviewed for punishment was arrested Friday over allegation­s that he leaked informatio­n about the probe to a current Korean Air executive, surnamed Yeo, through telephone conversati­ons and text messages.

The ministry found other officials responsibl­e for allowing Yeo to attend the ministry’s questionin­g of the flight attendant forced off the plane and failing to interview other first-class passengers, one of whom told prosecutor­s that Cho had assaulted and threatened the flight attendant.

A Seoul court is expected to decide Tuesday whether to issue an arrest warrant for Cho, who resigned as vice-president at the airline earlier this month. Prosecutor­s are also seeking to arrest Yeo over suspicions that he pressured airline employees to cover up the incident.

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