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South Korea

South Korean court awards flight attendant compensation over infamous 2014 ‘nut rage’ incident

  • The employee was ejected from an aeroplane and later forced to grovel in apology after serving the airline’s heiress with nuts in a bag, not a bowl
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2018, 8:15pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2018, 10:09pm

Korean Air on Wednesday was ordered to pay 20 million won (US$17,750) to a flight attendant who was kicked off an aeroplane by the firm’s heiress in 2014 in the now infamous “nut rage” episode.

The incident, where heiress Cho Hyun-ah angrily ejected the chief of the cabin crew from a taxiing aeroplane after being served macadamia nuts in a bag instead of a bowl, made global headlines.

Park Chang-jin, the employee in question, earlier sued Korean Air claiming that the firm – South Korea’s flag carrier – unfairly demoted him to an ordinary cabin crew position for speaking out about the incident to the media.

He also sued the firm and Cho, seeking compensation for physical and psychological suffering. Cho, then the firm’s vice-president, had forced Park and another flight attendant to kneel before her to apologise.

A Seoul court accepted part of Park’s argument and ordered Korean Air to pay him 20 million won but dismissed the suit against Cho.

Cho, a daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, was sentenced to a year in jail in 2015 for violating aviation security and business practice laws but was freed five months later when an appeal court gave her a suspended jail term.

The super-wealthy owners of chaebol – sprawling conglomerates that dominate the world’s 11th-largest economy – often attract controversy, but a series of scandals have made the Cho family one of the most notorious.

The chairman, 69, was charged in October for embezzling more than 20 billion won (US$17.8 million) from the firm and unfairly awarding contracts to companies controlled by his family members.

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His wife, Lee Myung-hee, was investigated several times this year for multiple assault allegations involving workers, and was grilled this month for using company resources to illegally hire foreign housekeepers.

Cho Hyun-ah is also being investigated for the same charge.

A younger daughter and the firm’s former marketing executive, Cho Hyun-min, was also accused earlier this year of throwing a drink at an advertising agency manager’s face in a fit of rage during a business meeting.

Prosecutors dismissed the case, citing insufficient evidence.