Ex-Korean Air 'nut rage' exec arrested

Updated: 2015-01-01 07:52

By Associated Press in Seoul(China Daily)

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South Korean prosecutors have arrested a former Korean Air Lines Co executive for allegedly endangering flight safety by delaying a plane because her macadamia nuts were not served the way she wanted, officials said on Wednesday.

Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of the airline's chairman, has faced mounting public anger because she forced the Dec 5 flight to return to its gate in New York to remove a senior flight attendant. She was angry that the nuts were served in a bag, not on a plate, in an incident that has been dubbed "nut rage".

Prosecutors have yet to press criminal charges against Cho, but South Korean law allows authorities to arrest a suspect for up to six months over worries the person could flee or destroy evidence. Seoul Western District Court said such concerns were warranted.

Cho was arrested and put to a Seoul detention facility shortly after the court approved her arrest warrant on Tuesday night, according to officials at the Seoul Western Prosecutors' Office. A current Korean Air executive, surnamed Yeo, was also arrested on Tuesday for allegedly pressuring Korean Air employees to conceal the incident, the officials said.

The court said there were "systematic attempts to cover up" Cho's actions "since the beginning of the incident".

The prosecutors' office has said Cho would face several charges, including inflight violence and changing a flight route, which is prohibited under aviation law.

Cho, 40, resigned earlier this month as vice-president at Korean Air and from all her roles at the airline's affiliates.

A passenger on the flight told local media that Cho assaulted and threatened crew members. Park Chang-jin, the senior flight attendant who was kicked off, told the KBS television network that he was insulted and had to kneel before her because he didn't dare to challenge the chairman's daughter. Park said Cho also poked the back of his hand with a corner of the flight manual book several times.

Her behavior touched a nerve with South Koreans who are frustrated with family members who control mighty business groups known as chaebol that dominate Asia's fourth-largest economy.

 Ex-Korean Air 'nut rage' exec arrested

Cho Hyun-ah, top center, the former vice-president of Korean Air, is surrounded by reporters before leaving for the prison at the Seoul Western District Prosecutors Office in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday. Ahn Young-Joon / Associated Press

(China Daily 01/01/2015 page4)