Korean Air flight attendant sues chairman’s daughter over ‘nut rage’ incident

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 March, 2015, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 March, 2015, 4:41pm

A flight attendant harassed by the Korean Air Lines chairman’s daughter has filed a civil lawsuit against her in New York, where the so-called “nut rage” incident took place.

Stewardess Kim Do-hee, who also named the airline as a defendant, claimed in her lawsuit that former Korean Air executive Heather Cho Hyun-ah hit, shoved, threatened and screamed obscenities at her.

The summons filed this week with the Supreme Court of the State of New York County of Queens also said Kim was pressured to lie to government regulators to cover up the incident.

Cho, then a vice-president overseeing cabin service, became enraged at the way Kim served macadamia nuts to her – in a bag not in a bowl – as the plane was set to leave New York’s John F Kennedy airport on a flight to Incheon, South Korea, on December 5.

Cho had demanded the flight crew chief be expelled from the plane and ordered the plane to return to its gate after it had started to taxi. The incident attracted international headlines and triggered scorn and outrage at home.

Cho, the eldest child of chairman Cho Yang-ho, was already sentenced last month to one year in prison by a South Korean court for violating aviation security laws, using violence against a flight attendant and other charges. Cho has appealed the ruling.

During the court hearings in Seoul, Kim testified tearfully that Cho became abusive as she confronted the crew about service, shouting at them as they knelt on the floor.

Kim is seeking compensation for damages that were caused to her career, reputation and emotional well-being.

The American law firms representing her, Weinstein Law Firm and Kobre & Kim, said in an emailed statement today that they were confident Cho would be found responsible “for the extensive damage that she has caused to Ms Kim’s career, reputation, and emotional well-being”.

Kobre & Kim said that Kim had lodged the suit because Cho and Korean Air had not responded to attempts to reach a settlement. The statement did not specify the amount of damages being sought by Kim, but this will be determined during the trial.

It is the first civil lawsuit connected with the nut rage case.

Neither Cho’s lawyer nor Korean Air could be reached for comment about the suit.

Cho has resigned from her posts at the airline and its subsidiaries in the face of public anger over her behaviour, a raw subject in South Korea, where the economy is dominated by family-run conglomerates know as “chaebol”.