Korean Air 'nut rage' executive freed to go home

A South Korean higher court acquitted Cho of illegally mandating the plane to change route.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  May 22, 2015 at 9:56 AM
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SEOUL, May 22 (UPI) -- A one-year jail term for a Korean air executive was overturned on Friday, when she was freed to return home.

Cho Hyun-ah, the South Korean airline executive who assaulted cabin crew for serving macadamia nuts in a plastic bag, received a reduced sentence of ten months suspended for two years, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In February a South Korean lower court delivered Cho a one-year jail term. A two-year suspension for Cho means she will no longer serve prison time – if she stays crime-free for two years.

Seoul High Court Judge Kim Sang-whan said, "[Cho] has shown remorse for the wrongdoing she committed. She must have learned a lesson from it. We judge she should have a chance to start her life anew,"

Kim said he took into consideration that the 40-year-old Cho is the mother of two-year-old twins – and had no criminal record before the incident dubbed "Nut Rage" sparked anger in South Korea.

The higher court acquitted Cho of a serious charge: illegally mandating the plane to change route. Cho's lawyers argued Korean Air Airbus A380 had not yet reached the runway before being ordered to return to its gate, and therefore Cho's order to the pilot did not constitute a route change.

The South Korean court accepted that argument.

Cho was able to return home on Friday for the first time in five months. Some critics of South Korean big corporations, however, are not happy. Kim Sang-jo, a Hansung University professor said the ruling is "another bad example of the Korean justice system bending to chaebol power."

South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported the court did find Cho guilty of attacking Park Chang-jin, the Korean Air cabin crew chief forced to kneel and slam his knuckles into a computer tablet. The court also charged her of "coercion and interference in business operations" when she ejected him from the flight.

The judge said Cho's actions evidenced a "lack of courtesy" for her work colleagues, but the impact of her actions on flight safety was "minor."

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