Korean Air Executive Mired In Nut Scandal

Cho Hyun-ah, now former vice president of Korean Air has caused public outcry yet again. In 2013, Cho received a lot of flack for going abroad to give birth to her twin sons. This time, even though Korean media cannot seem to decide whether they were peanuts, macadamia nuts, or “snacks”, everyone agrees that her outrageous reaction perceived bad service crossed the line.

Article from Segye Ilbo:

“Get off the plane”, Absurd Order to Flight Attendant from Korean Air’s Vice President Cho Hyun-Ah.

Korean Air Executive Mired In Nut Scanda1

Cho Hyun-ah, vice president of Korean Air, was not satisfied with in-flight service, and ordered a head flight attendant off the flight. This caused a 20-minute delay, as the plane going from New York to Incheon was proceeding toward the runway for takeoff. The flight attendant flew to Incheon International Airport the following day.

According to sources in the aviation industry, on Nov. 5 (local time) the KE086 flight bound for Incheon from JFK International Airport in New York, was moving toward the runway to takeoff, but it changed its course to return to the gate. This is called “ramp return” but it is usually reserved for when there is a safety concern, such as a maintenance issue or unidentified baggage.

But this ramp return had nothing to do with any of these concerns. It occurred after the vice president questioned the quality of her in-flight service..

The episode started when Cho was served a packaged snack in the first class cabin. She reprimanded the flight attendant, saying “Why do you serve these in a bag? Don’t you know the procedures?” Cho proceeded to berate the attendant, interrogating her about in flight service procedures, and finally shouting, “Get off the plane!”

Cho’s anger forced the plane to head back to the terminal to escort the head flight attendant off the plane before it took off. The unusual ramp return delayed the flight departure by around 20 minutes, resulting in an 11-minute delay in arrival at Incheon International Airport. As the story spread, Vice President Cho came under a storm of criticism, including from Korean Air.

Article 43 of Aviation Safety Act stipulates that anyone who obstructs legitimate aviation business using violence, threats or deception, endangering safety of passengers and the aircraft, is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in prison .

An airline industry insider says, “Ramp returns sometimes take place due to maintenance problems. But I have never experienced or heard of a ramp return made just because a privileged member of the ‘royal family’ questioned her in-flight service. ramp returns sometimes take place due to maintenance problems.

A Korea Air official explained, saying, “Airline workers pay more attention to in-flight service procedures when a corporate executive is on board, so we understand the ramp return this time occurred due to a situation with in-flight service.”

Back in April, an executive from a Korean conglomerate on board a Korean Air flight told an attendant that his instant noodles were undercooked, demanding that the noodles be served to him after being cooked again, sparking a wave of criticism. At that time, the Korean Air pledged to respond sternly to his actions that threatened flight safety, including legal action.

Comments from Naver:


She acts just like she looks.


Tsk tsk, she’s a snob.


It really makes me worried.


She thinks the flight attendant is her slave… Did she really have to deal with the situation impudently taking 20 minutes away from other customers, no matter how wrong the flight attendant was?


She looks like a pig and her reputation is really bad. People online say she is a pyscho with a personality disorder.


Born as a child of the Chaebol, she doesn’t respect other people. How does the family treat their daughters to make news like this come out all the time? Seems like the scandal about having her kids abroad was just yesterday.. she scared the hell out those flight attendants.. Korean Air, you’ll get past it. You rich guys, you suffer too much!


Is she insane or just lacking in common sense? Or was she going nuts with jealousy because the flight attendant was beautiful?


Korean Air is famous for working people like slaves.


Uh that face, delete the picture. The fried mandu I ate last night just came back up… barf.


She didn’t think of the flight attendant as a person but as a slave.


Since customers on the same flight had to suffer through this, refund them the flight ticket price.


When she was served a sealed snack, she could have asked them to open it. How did she get so idiotic just over a sealed snack? Is Korean Air your private airline? There are many accidents these days. When the flight returns suddenly, customers feel nervous, have a problems keeping appointments, and can have to delay important things. Open the snack by yourself.


She seems to live on the curses she received for giving birth abroad, but she might need more insults to keep her life long. She is doing so much stuff. It’d be hard to cause all these problems if she wasn’t crazy.


Is she the one who gave birth abroad?


Even though they are like a royal family, are they going to amend safety regulations just because of a packaged snack? Cho is so much ruder than most women in Korea. Maybe she thinks Korean Air has no competition?

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  • Yaminah Jamison

    I hope everyone else who boarded the flight made a huge complaint about that incident. Those are her customers. You don’t delay something due to your selfishness.

  • Ken Morgan

    Mass boycott!

  • x1sfg

    “I would like a trust fund as well,” said Oliver Twist

  • Neopolitan

    I work for an airline and while I think Korean Air does have the “serve nuts in plate” policy, wouldn’t it be better and safer if there are people with nut allergy if they were sealed??

    • elizabeth

      Apparently, her father had changed it to “serve nuts in bag” before the incident, but she was unaware of it.

    • Shinnokina

      whatever the case with the nuts, one cannot simply have a plane turn back because of such a trivial matter. If she finds mistakes in the airline procedure of serving customers, she can take a note and handle it when they return to Korea, talk to the attendant in private or report her to the attendant’s boss for taking further measures in teaching him/her the correct procedure. But you don’t delay a plane because you are upset over packaging. This is seriously just being spoiled.

  • elizabeth

    KAL inflight service is great, and value for money. That leads a dilemma – to boycott or not to boycott? I figured that the ones who would suffer most would be the employees when revenues dive.

    She was right to expect high standards but so wrong to treat the employees and fellow passengers as lower beings whose lives revolve around her.

    • Terry the magic goose

      KAL inflight service isn’t bad, but it’s nothing amazing. I always found it to be no different then a typical middle of the road carrier. Better than average for sure, but not at the level of Emirates or Singapore. But on many routes KAL is overpriced.

      The woman is a massive idiot and probably acted this way her whole life. Her fake apology, faux-saddness, dark clothes, whisper speaking bullshit was hammy acting at its best. I couldn’t give two shits if KAL went bankrupt tommorow. Maybe then the KAL/Asiana government sanctioned duopoly would be broken up. Fat chance though. This will be forgotten soon enough.

      • elizabeth

        Not amazing, but value for money compared to other carriers I have taken, e.g. SIA, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, United Airlines and Northwest considering the environment, cleanliness, food, availability and variety of newspapers and the attitude of flight attendants. Worst are China Eastern and EVA. That’s according to my experience.

        Cho probably deserves the flak but boycotting KAL won’t hurt her or the management. They are a Chaebol. So it defeats the purpose of boycotting. But employees with families to feed may face job cuts.

        I watched a documentary a couple of days ago about how difficult it is for a Korean graduate to get a job. Average 2 years job-hunting. Only 50% are employed as degree holders. Others make do with $5/h as restaurant helpers.

        Anyway, just some of my thoughts.

        • MikeinGyeonggi

          80% of Koreans graduate university, and then most of them expect to find nice salaried office jobs. Life doesn’t work like that. These kids gotta get realistic and start thinking outside the box.

          • elizabeth

            Yes, the documentary mentioned something about SMEs being shunned because they aren’t stable and most fail after a few years. Civil service jobs, however, are preferred because they are still considered as iron rice bowls with attractive pensions.

            As for thinking out of the box, there is this young man who opted to study robotics in a Meister school instead of a university, making his parents very nervous, but he is confident that he will be more marketable when he graduates with practical vocational skills.

            Good for him.

      • Ken Morgan

        Bah, it is all fakery these days. Even Japanese businessmen (and women) don’t kill themselves if something goes wrong. Akio Toyoda for instance in 2011. Somebody should have handed him a wakizashi and told him to PROVE how sorry he was.

  • Dave Park

    I understand that having a strict set of guidelines is what puts Korea Air service above most but this incident was a huge embarrassment to the company that not many will forget. There is always a time and place and procedure on how to discipline your employees. Telling the pilot to stop the plane and go back to the gate was the wrong move completely. Asiana Airlines must be so happy right now.

  • 42

    Maybe the flight attendant ignited a heated debate where the vice president felt threatened for her safety thus that would make the call to head the plane back to its terminal legitimate. Besides, the Captain of the flight is the one who makes the final decision to delay the flight or not, so he is to blame not the vice president. The vice president is merely a paying customer who felt violated by the treatment of the flight attendant, nothing wrong with that.

    • Thais

      nice fanfiction

    • Ken Morgan

      Nay, Korean culture isn’t like that. A few years ago a Co-pilot knew the captain of the flight had faulty instruments. Rather than speak his mind and break the honorific codes he chose to die instead.

    • Balkan

      In Korea, one cannot refuse a demand of the company’s VP. Period. If her safety had been endangered, don’t you think she would have said it right away when the scandal broke out? Don’t you think she would have said that to the local airport authorities? Do you actually think the flight would have continued that soon?

      How crazy a person could be to threaten a company’s VP? There was no mention of it in any reports.

      As for Ms. Choi being a paying customer, I can just laugh at that.

    • RegisterToPost

      If the captain overruled the VP he would have been fired almost as soon as wheels down happened at Incheon with KAL making a face-saving excuse like ‘ignored safety protocol’

  • We’re all peasants to these rich people

    • Ken Morgan

      Ever see the film fight club? There is a haiku in it:

      It says:

      worker bees can leave

      even drones can fly away

      the queen is their slave

      The Korean mega corporations are at the mercy of the consumers. Look at the UK Tesco was dominant in the groceries market. Then the unsavoury practices started leaking out like staff who were not paid and literally the use of slaves.

      As a result Tesco is on its knees right now and it has become insolvent. Koreans as a population can boycott things. Much like you see few Toyota cars in Korea. If the boycott is big enough then the corporates will topple over.

      If KAL don’t fill their planes then the company will be in deep trouble.

      • Shinnokina

        well, KAL is freaking rich and has many many subbanches you don’t even know about. Conglomerates are conglomerates for a reason.They are like octopuses, have multiple arms (business units) to support each other. I’m afraid it would need a serious GLOBAL boycott of ALL of their businesses for them to topple over. And that’s not going to be happening over a bowl of nuts. :)

        • Ken Morgan

          A cursory check around and Hanjin shipping was in financial trouble last year too as was KAL. The point is it only takes a very slight change in consumer behaviour to destroy such companies. Although total collapses are more dramatic.

          Tesco for example they have a turn over of 65bn which dwarfs Hanjin’s 20-30bn valuation.

          They kept on acting arrogantly and kept getting exposed with dodgy business practices. They didn’t care they were so big that they were unstoppable with 31% of the market share. But the market share fell just 2% to 28.8% so not that many people changed behaviours but this has caused them to be in really big trouble.

      • jonny

        well technically so is the 1% in america. but i don’t see the 99% revolting

  • Balkan

    Considering the Korean corporate culture, I expect the flight attendant to be forced to apologize to Ms Choi and eventually resign, because of the twisted logic that goes like this:
    “If you had done your job properly, Ms. Choi would not have reacted the way she did. Now, because of you, Ms. Choi has so many problems. If you had any shame, you would apologize to her and resign. Because of the shame you brought to Korean Air, its top executives and your family as well as to Korean people, you should kill yourself in order to save your family’s honor if there’s any of it left after what you had done.”

    • RegisterToPost

      The flight attendant had KAL representatives come to his home and try to persuade him to give a face saving lie that he used abusive language. LOL so typically Korean. Deny deny deny and lie.

      • Balkan

        She apologized, but NOT to the flight attendant. She apologized to the public, her father and his company. I expect Mr. Park (the cabin manager she made kneel and then kicked out of the plane) to be fired in the following months for whatever reason (they will find something).

  • Small twon

    Old news.This is what happened after this post.


  • RegisterToPost

    One of the comments mentioned about this woman giving birth abroad. This is referring to her giving birth to her children in Hawaii, thus securing both of them US citizenship and enabling them to avoid military service and pay residential tuition.

    She apologized today, but she’s not really sorry. Once a snob always a snob. She’ll be terrorizing new underlings within the month thanks to daddy.

  • GJM

    Oh, forget about this — it’s all a storm in a teacup — what I really want to discuss is truly important issues like rioting ajumas, tearing up the place and beating up cops —
    “In January 2006, for example, riot police in Seoul were sent to face down a protest of hundreds of concerned mothers who were chanting, “Don’t beat my son!” They were marching for better treatment of riot police.”

    And haunted Korean golf courses. Yeah, that’s what’s REALLY important.

    “The trees, though, are the least of the hazards on the course. A sign at the entrance warns: “Danger: Do not retrieve balls from the rough. Live mines.” while another local legend talks of golfers seeing visions of vampire deer and man-bear-pigs. Recently, a few soldiers have given the golf course a facelift, mowing the lawns and adding astroturf. Unexploded landmines in the rough continue to be a problem, though. Nobody ever goes looking for lost balls”


  • Sam

    I don’t care if you’re the CEO of an airline company, if you’ve got a plane full of at least 150+ other people this is a totally absurd action to take and this woman should be fired. Not only for inconveniencing all those paying customers (with having to wait longer to get to Korea and probably having worse in-flight service due to one worker leaving especially on such a loooooooong flight with meals, etc.) but also for stranding that woman in another country halfway around the world.

  • waygookinhanguk

    On a lighter note, there is an amusing story on the Joongang Daily website that sales of macademia nuts in Korea have soared as people buy them to see what the fuss is about.

  • codfilet

    This whole story reads like a Kdrama-it has it all; rich,evil bitch, company goons threatening the powerless victim-life imitates art.

  • Zuijiadeai

    Arrogant and narcisist! Spoilt brat! She think as the boss she can enslave everyone.

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