Korean Air heiress appeals nut rage ruling and prison sentence

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of – The former Korean Air Lines Co. executive sentenced to one year in prison for forcing a plane back to the gate over a bag of nuts is appealing the ruling.

Yoon & Yang LLC, a Seoul law firm representing Cho Hyun-ah, said Friday that she has filed a notice of appeal to a Seoul court. It comes a day after Cho, the daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, was found guilty of violating aviation safety law and other charges. Cho will ask the court to reconsider her sentence.

Cho achieved worldwide notoriety for her onboard tantrum over being served macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a dish.

A Seoul district court on Thursday said Cho’s actions, such as forcing flight attendants to kneel before her and ordering one of them off the plane, jeopardized safety on the flight and trampled on human dignity.

Her attorneys plan to focus again on a technical rebuttal of the charge that she forced a plane to change its route. That was the most serious charge she faced and during the trial her lawyers argued that events fell short of a route change since the plane had moved only a few meters from the gate before returning.

Cho could still spend a full year in prison because appeals to higher courts, including the Supreme Court, are a lengthy process.

The prison sentence was a departure from previous rulings that have shown leniency to South Korea’s tycoons but some people still found it inadequate. Typically, South Korea’s tycoons have received suspended prison terms for serious white collar crimes and later on have been pardoned by presidential decree.

The nut rage incident touched a nerve in South Korea, where the economy is dominated by family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol. Public opinion has turned against the founding families who have tended to treat their sprawling businesses, which employ millions of people, like personal empires.

The first and second generations of these families were credited with helping to transform South Korea into a developed nation. But the third generation is regarded as pampered and entitled, and the public is less tolerant of their excesses.


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