SEOUL, South Korea >> Two sisters accused of abusing Korean Air employees will be removed from management positions in their family-run corporate empire, the company announced Sunday, four years after one of them became notorious for an episode known as “nut rage.”
The executives, Cho Hyun-ah, 43, and Cho Hyun-min, 35, have become lightning rods for South Koreans who say that leaders of the family-run conglomerates known as chaebol, which dominate the country’s economy, often act as if they are above the law.
Cho Hyun-ah became infamous in 2014 when, as a Korean Air vice president, she flew into a rage after she was served macadamia nuts in an unopened package, rather than on a plate, in first class. Officials said she threw documents and insults at members of the flight crew, and she ordered flight attendants to kneel and beg for forgiveness.
Cho then ordered the Korean Air plane back to its gate at Kennedy International Airport in New York so that she could have the chief flight attendant removed.
She was later accused of violating airline safety laws and spent several months in prison, though she recently made a quiet return to the Hanjin conglomerate for which her father, Cho Yang-ho, is chairman, managing a hotel business that he controls.
This month, police began investigating accusations of physical abuse against her younger sister, Cho Hyun-min, a Korean Air marketing executive. She was accused of insulting an advertising executive and hurling water in his face during a business meeting.
Cho said she had thrown the water on the floor, not at the official’s face, but nevertheless apologized for what she called foolish and reckless behavior.
The family has become so vilified among South Koreans that people have petitioned to the office of President Moon Jae-in to ban Korean Air from using “Korean” in its name.