December 12, 2014 12:35
The Korean Air heiress who exposed the carrier to global ridicule with an attack of "nut rage" is resigning from all positions in the company on Friday.
Cho Hyun-ah earlier quit as head of in-flight services and hotel operations and, when that failed to quell criticism, also resigned from her position of vice president.
But critics pointed out that she holds other positions in the conglomerate for which her tender age and explosive temper leave her ill-suited. Cho has now caved in and will quit the Korean Air board of directors and resign as head of the carrier's hotel, leisure development and travel subsidiaries.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Thursday said Cho has been told to appear on Friday morning at the ministry to answer questions about the incident at JFK airport in New York last week, where Cho bawled out a flight attendant for serving her nuts incorrectly and then had the purser removed from the plane for failing to find the relevant regulation quickly enough.
Meanwhile, prosecutors raided Korean Air's headquarters in Seoul as well as passenger service offices at Incheon International Airport on Thursday and slapped Cho with a travel ban.
A Korean Air spokesman said Cho "will appear for questioning by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Friday."
As late as Thursday morning the airline claimed Cho would be unable to appear for questioning, but the raid seems to have changed its mind. A ministry official said interviews of cabin crew yielded conflicting accounts about whether Cho screamed at the flight attendant.
The raid came a day after the civic group People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy filed a complaint against Cho at a Seoul district prosecutors' office on Wednesday, accusing her of violating aviation regulations.
A prosecution official said, "We acted quickly because the incident has triggered public uproar and there were concerns of tampering with evidence."
The civic group claimed it has obtained accounts that Korean Air management leaned on staff to give false accounts to authorities and apparently informed prosecutors of the names of the executives who allegedly gave the orders.
Prosecutors have obtained flight records as well as audio recordings and a list of passengers on the flight.
They are trying to determine whether Cho violated aviation rules that ban an aircraft from changing course without proper reason. If found guilty, an individual who forced an aircraft to change course faces between one and 10 years behind bars.
Meanwhile her father, Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, has canceled a press conference scheduled for Friday on the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Cho senior is the head of the 2018 Winter Olympics organizing committee.
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