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Korean Air chief’s daughter gets 1 year jail term in ‘nut rage’ case

Photographers take photographs of a bus transporting Cho Hyun-ah, also known as Heather Cho (inset), daughter of chairman of Korean Air Lines, Cho Yang-ho, at the Seoul Western District Prosecutor's office in Seoul February 12

By Ju-min Park

A South Korean court sentenced the daughter of Korean Air Lines’ chairman to one year in prison after finding her guilty over an on-board incident in New York concerning the way she was served nuts in first class.

Heather Cho, daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho and the former head of in-flight service, violated the law by ordering the plane to return to the gate after it started to taxi on Dec. 5.

Cho had demanded the flight crew chief be expelled from the flight after a first class stewardess served her macadamia nuts in a bag and not on a dish. The plane, which had started to move away from the gate, had to return, an episode that provoked both scorn and outrage.

“This is a case where human dignity was trampled upon,” Judge Oh Sung-woo said on Thursday.

Cho’s defence lawyer Suh Chang-hee said he would discuss whether to appeal the ruling but added: “It’s my understanding that she is repenting.”

Cho said she was “truly sorry to those who were hurt,” in a letter to the court read out by the judge.

Prosecutors sought a three-year jail term if she was convicted of breaking aviation law and another charge of using her position for obstruction of due process. The court found her not guilty on the second charge.

It convicted another executive charged with trying to interfere in the government investigation and sentenced him to eight months in prison.

The crew chief testified in court this month that Cho behaved “like a beast” and treated the crew “like slaves,” as she became abusive towards them in the incident.

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