Korean Air “Nut Rage” Executive’s Prison Sentence Suspended

Filed Under: Korean Air, Media

Oh man, I almost feel like my life has been a bit boring since the case with the former Korean Air “nut rage” executive was settled. Fortunately Richard Anderson and Akbar Al Baker came along to be our new “nutty” executives, and have kept us amused over the past couple of months.

I’ve written extensively about the Korean Air “nut rage” incident, which happened last December on a Korean Air A380 flight from New York JFK to Seoul Incheon. During this incident, a Korean Air executive demanded the plane be turned around because she wasn’t pleased with the way she was served macadamia nuts.


For those of you not familiar with the saga, see my previous posts on the subject:

Earlier in the year Heather Cho got sentenced to one year in jail, which I assumed was the end of the story. However, she walked out of jail free today, after an appeals court suspended her sentence. Via CNN:

Cho, the daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, was sentenced to a year in jail in February.

On Friday, Seoul’s High Court reduced the sentence to 10 months — and then released her on two years’ probation.

If she runs afoul of the probation restrictions at any point in the next two years, she’ll be back in jail, the court ruled.

Prosecutors have a week to decide whether to appeal the new verdict.

Why was Heather Cho released from jail early?

On Friday, the court ruled that while she violated safety rules by demanding the plane return to the gate, she didn’t cause a change in the flight path.

The flight arrived 11 minutes behind schedule.

Since the incident happened on the ground rather than in the air and her actions didn’t cause a change in flight path, apparently the punishment isn’t as severe, at least according to the high court.

This is certainly an interesting reversal in all of this. Some thought they were making an example of her when this first happened, given that there’s so much animosity for the families which control the country’s top companies. While many argued she was given an especially harsh punishment, it’s possible that she’s now being let off especially easy by the high court, perhaps for exactly the opposite reason — because her family may have connections in the court system.


Bottom line

There was something oddly uplifting about this story, not just for the Korean middle class, but I think around the world. Was her sentence so harsh due to the public outcry, and were they trying to make an example of her? Probably.

Ultimately she has suffered for a few months in jail, and all of this doesn’t seem too unreasonable to me. I still mark what became of this whole story as a “win.”

What do you make of Heather Cho being released from jail?

(Tip of the hat to Jack)

  1. I know nothing about the Korean justice system, and next to nothing about Korean politics and/or the families that control so much of the country. However, I think the main point is the damage that she and her family have suffered to their public image. I would’ve preferred that she remain in jail for the length of her sentence, but for someone like her (and her family) the public shame and embarrassment may be enough. Plus, the F/A or purser (can’t remember which, the FT thread has some updates) is suing them in the US, where the family has little, if any, ability to influence the courts, so they may still have to pay a significant financial penalty before we hear the ends of this.

  2. Brian L. says: “I would’ve preferred that she remain in jail for the length of her sentence, but for someone like her (and her family) the public shame and embarrassment may be enough.”

    I think you have this all backwards. People with this much power and this many connections have an extremely high tolerance for shameful actions. That’s how they end up in these situations in the first place.

  3. Will she be able to come to the U.S. again because now she has a criminal conviction will US Immigration deem her morale character to not be what is desired to allow entry?

  4. @Vicky She will have no problem coming to the states. She won’t be able to enter the U.S. under visa waiver program, but given her family’s financial background she will have very little problem getting the U.S. visa IMHO.

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