SEOUL (Reuters) - Korean Air Lines Chairman Cho Yang-ho said on Friday he had scolded his daughter for expelling a crew member from a flight over the way she was served nuts in first class.
The nut rage incident, as it has become known, has stirred public outrage and ridicule in South Korea and raised questions about the power of the country’s “chaebol” conglomerates.
Heather Cho, the former head of in-flight service before she resigned over the nut case, is on trial for breaking aviation laws and conspiring with other company executives to force crew members to lie about the Dec. 5 incident.
“It was wrong to get a crew member off the flight no matter what the reason,” Cho told the court in his fist appearance in the case.
“I have scolded her for not controlling her emotions and expelling the crew member,” he said as his daughter appeared to wipe away tears.
Cho apologised to the crew chief who was forced off the flight and promised to ensure that he would not face reprimand from the company.
Heather Cho had demanded the crew chief removed from the flight at John F. Kennedy airport in New York after a flight attendant served her macadamia nuts in a bag, not on a dish. The plane, already moving to taxi, returned to the gate.
Cho later resigned from her posts at the airline and subsidiaries in the face of public anger over her behaviour.
The flight crew member, Kim Do-hee, testified that Cho had became abusive as she confronted the crew about service, shouting at them as they kneeled on the floor.
Later, airline executives tried to pressure her and the crew chief to lie to government authorities about the incident and they pressed her to accept Cho’s apology with an offer of a job as a professor at a school affiliated with the airline.
“I didn’t want to accept her apology. I didn’t go home for four days trying to avoid Cho,” Kim said.
Cho apologised to Kim in court in her only comments on Friday. “I sincerely apologise to you. I am sorry.”
Cho’s lawyers told the court at a previous hearing that she felt sorry for her action and she did not merit legal punishment.
Heather Cho is the oldest of Cho Yang-ho’s three children. Her siblings are also executives with the airline. She has been in detention since Dec. 30.
Editing by Jack Kim, Robert Birsel