Korean Air “Nut Rage” Flight Attendant Awarded (Only) $18,000

Filed Under: Korean Air

In 2014, an incident that occurred on a Korean Air flight from New York JFK to Seoul Incheon went viral. In this incident, a Korean Air executive (also the daughter of the company’s chairman) went nuts after a flight attendant dared to serve her nuts in a bag rather than in a ramekin.

She demanded that the flight attendants get on their knees to apologize, that the plane be turned around, and that the flight attendant who served her incorrectly be offloaded.

Part of the reason this story went viral is because of the tension between big corporations led by the country’s “ruling” families, and everyone else. This was the perfect example of the abuse of power that seems to be all too common in Korea.

The Korean Air executive ended up being sentenced to one year in jail for obstructing aviation safety, though she was released after just three months. At the time there were rumors that she’d make a return to the company, though that ended up not happening. Instead her sister has many of her roles, and her sister texted to assure her that she would be “avenged.”

The other side of this story that wasn’t talked about much at the time was how this incident impacted 47 year old Park Chang Jin, who was the chief flight attendant on the “nut rage” flight (he wasn’t even the one to allegedly serve her the nuts incorrectly).

He’s still working at Korean Air, but went from being a chief flight attendant to just being a regular economy flight attendant.

Earlier this year he had an interview about the situation he’s in, describing a hostile work environment that he believes is designed to force him to resign. Rumors spread about him, his superiors belittled him and asked why he isn’t married and why he returned to work, etc.

He took 18 months of sick leave to seek hospital treatment, and is now on anti-depressants.

Anyway, earlier this year Park said he was suing Cho and Korean Air, alleging they demoted him illegally and have led to him being ostracized at work. Park said at the time he didn’t expect to win, but rather was doing it to make a point.

This case is now over, so what happened? Korean Air has been ordered to pay ~18,000 USD by a court in Seoul for his treatment on that flight four years ago. This amount was significantly less than Park demanded, though, and the court backed Korean Air’s decision to demote him from a chief flight attendant to an economy flight attendant.

So the fact that he got ~18,000 USD is better than nothing, though hardly makes up for what he has been through…

  1. What I find so sad about this is that amidst a clear and disgusting display of public harassment and degradation of an employee by a Korean executive there has been nothing done to defend or support that flight attendant. Delta (and SkyTeam) continues partnering. Passengers continue flying. Bloggers continue promoting the exceptional service. But at what cost? Basically sending a message that it’s ok to not only put him through this horrid scene on the plane but to later demote him. There should have been more reaction from partners and flyers to defend this man. Now It will happen again and the culture there will never change out of fear. I don’t care if it’s the way things are done in Korea. This is a human being who does not deserve this treatment.

    Imagine if a Delta executive treated a flight attendant like this.

    I am nothing, just one, and my dollar won’t matter in the scheme of things – but I refuse to ever fly Korean until there is a rightful restoration of this man’s honor and position.

  2. Ok so i also flew KE F cgk-icn-sfo and my nuts were also given in a bag, not a ramekin 🙁 have to say…service isn’t up to par with other Asian carriers.

  3. The corporate culture is very hierarchical in Korea, and I doubt very much there was anything the poor man could do about his demotion and workplace bullying. Unions just aren’t that strong in Korea. Anything that smacks of whistleblowing is seen as a betrayal, and the employee is treated as a traitor. Laws are just not that robust in offering protection from reprisal.

    Some ignorant comments may deride the nation as “corrupted and hopeless,” but I think this doesn’t consider what they have accomplished. Until 30 years ago, the RoK was a military dictatorship and had just arrived at middle-income status. Now, it is a fully democratic first-world nation, but some of the laws have yet to catch up. One hopes that situations like this will help motivate such changes.

  4. @Joey They do. Problem: the main general employee union is colluded with the employer. In fact the main FA union expelled Park from the union (!!!).

    So while he sued the union as well, Park created the second union. He is the head of it.

    @Lucky Important to note that $18,000 compensation should only be paid by Korean Air. The court decided Cho herself needs nothing to compensate him. Seriously.

  5. Although I shall probably appear to most as being a fascist, I fullyt support the FA’s demotion from Chief FA to basic Y flight attendant. Why did he not know how to properly serve nuts to F passengers who have paid for the privilege ?

    I do not support making him get on his knees, offloading him and the ridiculous hype by the passenger/owner/CEO daughter and I have no problem with her having gone to jail for it but…

    Start not paying attention to the little things in proper service and you end up being…


    As to $ 18,000 to the “victim” (?), Good for him.

  6. @Pierre

    Problem is he DID know how to serve the nuts. It was the executive who didn’t know how they were supposed to be served based on their OWN REVISED rulebook.

  7. This is the case all over Asia. Same situation could have happened in Thailand, Japan, Singapore … the elite think they are entitled to have their asses kissed by anyone and everyone. What this princess and her daddy need are a good ass kicking. Physical pain make the rich come back down to Earth and think twice before acting up again.

  8. I will not fly Korean Air until the whole Park family resigns.

    This is unacceptable and the court is basically influenced by the rich and the powerful.


  9. People have to pick their battles to fight. Why didn’t he just pretend to apologize and then serve her some “special” drinks afterwards? That would have save everyone headache while he gets his revenge too. Know when to kowtow and when to fight is how you get ahead in corporate world. He’s probably better off to leave the company and start his own as he’s not willing to play the game. Not saying the daughter isn’t crazy or didn’t deserve to go to jail but there are better ways to handle the situation. 18k is pretty pathetic for US standards but then again, this deter people from suing left and right. That’s why it’s so expensive to do any business in US because people are trained to be litigious.

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