Tue, Apr 09, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Korean Air boss dies after expulsion


Korean Air’s chairman, whose leadership included scandals such as his daughter’s infamous incident of “nut rage,” has died due to illness, the company said yesterday.

Cho Yang-ho had been indicted on multiple charges, including embezzlement and tax evasion, and his death came two weeks after a shareholder vote to remove the 70-year-old from the company’s board over a series of scandals surrounding his family.

Cho’s death will likely force a court to dismiss his criminal case.

The company said Cho died in the US, but did not specify his illness or provide other details in its statement.

Cho had remained chairman, which is a non-board role, even after shareholders ousted him from the board. He had expressed his intent to continue participating in management.

Cho had been receiving treatment for an unspecified lung illness since late last year and his condition “worsened rapidly” following the shareholder vote, apparently because of shock and stress, a senior Korean Air executive said.

The executive did not want to be named, citing office rules.

Korean Air’s corporate flag and the South Korean flag were flown at half-staff at the company’s headquarters in downtown Seoul.

Cho’s eldest daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, who was formerly the head of the airline’s cabin service, received worldwide notoriety in 2014 after she ordered a Korean Air passenger plane to return to a terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City because she was angry that the crew served her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a plate.

The incident, dubbed “nut rage,” generated international headlines and severely tarnished the Cho family’s image, while highlighting broader concerns about the sense of entitlement among the moneyed elite in South Korea.

Cho Hyun-ah was sentenced to one year in prison for violating aviation law, but was released early when a higher-level court suspended the sentence.

The Cho family also faced intense criticism after company employees said they were subjected to mistreatment and tantrums.

Cho’s wife was in May last year summoned by South Korean police to question her about allegations that she abused and assaulted employees.

Lee Myung-hee was accused of physically or verbally abusing more than 10 former and current employees of Korean Air’s parent company.

Cho’s younger daughter, Cho Hyun-min, also was investigated by state prosecutors for potential assault for allegedly hurling a cup of water during a business meeting. No charges were filed.

Before his reputation was hit by scandals, Cho Yang-ho, who led Korean Air since 1992, had been credited for overseeing the company’s growth into one of Asia’s biggest airlines.

Korean Air, which began in 1969 with eight planes, operates 166 aircraft with international flights to 111 cities in 43 countries.

Cho was also the chairman of the Hanjin Group, a global transportation conglomerate of dozens of companies that includes the airline.

He was also the co-chairman of the Korea-US Business Council and vice chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries.

He was involved in the bidding process and preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics held in South Korea’s ski resort town of Pyeongchang and headed the Olympic organizing committee for two years before stepping down in 2016.

Cho’s resignation was initially described as voluntary, but he later said he left the committee under “unjust” pressure from the government of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

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