Korean Air Heiress Pleads Terminal Confusion

  • By Seok Nam-jun, Eom Bo-un

    January 02, 2015 10:26

    Korean Air heiress Cho Hyun-ah, who exposed the carrier to global ridicule with her "nut rage" on board a flight from New York, has claimed she did not know the plane was heading toward the tarmac when she ordered the purser off the plane.

    The order forced the pilot to taxi back to the terminal and let the purser disembark after Cho threw a tantrum because she was served a bag of nuts incorrectly.

    Cho's lawyer told a judge who was reviewing her arrest warrant on Tuesday, "The airplane slowly moved a distance of just 17 m over 23 seconds. Cho was in an excited state and may not have been aware of the fact that the plane had started to move."

    The purser, Park Chang-jin, informed the pilot that he needed to turn the aircraft back to the boarding gate due to a "passenger problem." The pilot obliged without asking any questions.

    At 12:55 a.m., the pilot apparently informed air traffic control at JFK International Airport that the plane had to return to the boarding gate due to a "situation in the passenger area," and returned to the gate at 1:10 a.m., according to a transcript of the communication. The pilot told prosecutors that he spoke only with Park and not with Cho.

    Cho Hyun-min

    Meanwhile, Cho's younger sister Hyun-min, who currently holds an executive position at the family-run carrier, committed her second massive blunder by sending a text message to Cho promising to "take revenge" on her behalf.

    Cho Hyun-min, who already added to the carrier's woes with an internal memo claiming other staff were also to blame for the incident, sent the text message on Dec. 17, when her sister appeared before prosecutors for questioning. Prosecutors submitted the phone in evidence during the review of Cho's arrest warrant.

    The younger Cho apologized hours after the text message was reported in the media, but by then the damage was done. "I am very sorry beyond words for the content of that text message," she tweeted. "I'd rather not make any excuses. My immature behavior is to blame."

    Cho Hyun-ah spent her first night in jail over the festive season in a cell with four or five other inmates. According to prison officials, Cho was given a prisoner number after arriving at the detention center on Tuesday night.

    After changing into a light blue prison uniform, she was given a toothbrush, toothpaste and towel before being sent to a special cell designed to let new inmates get used to jail for three to four days before moving to a regular cell.

    After a period of adjustment, she will be moved either to another shared cell or a solitary cell, according to prison officials. Cells have a cubbyhole, desk and toilet.

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