Korean Air Purser Speaks Out About Nut Outrage

Filed Under: Korean Air, Media

For those of you that have been living under a rock, see these previous posts:


Korean Air’s nutty inflight incident from last week keeps getting more interesting. Check out the New York Times article which was published about it today.

First, the Korean Air CEO and father to the SVP, apologized for not raising his daughter properly:

“I failed to raise her properly,” said the chairman, Cho Yang-ho, who bowed deeply and asked to take the blame, showing contrition in the traditional South Korean way when one’s child misbehaves.

Then the purser makes some pretty serious accusations about what Cho did, claiming she demanded he kneel down and apologize, and that she hit him with a folder of documents:

As if that was not enough, the head steward on the flight spoke up after days of silence, telling Korea’s KBS-TV on Friday that Mr. Cho’s daughter had forced him to kneel down and apologize on the plane as punishment for the way one of his stewards served the nuts to passenger in first class. She later kicked the steward off the flight.

“You can’t imagine the humiliation I felt unless you experienced it yourself,” the steward, Park Chang-jin, said, adding that Ms. Cho called him names, hit him several times with a folder of documents and hurled it at the steward.

Then he provides an explanation as to why he felt powerless in the situation (not that we really needed an explanation:

In his statements to KBS, the head steward said that he had not felt able to stand up to Ms. Cho because she was “a daughter of the owner” of his company. KBS also quoted Mr. Park as claiming that Korean Air officials later tried to hush the scandal by asking him to tell investigators that he left the plane of his own will.

Korean Air had earlier accused Mr. Park of “ignoring regulations and procedures” of in-flight services and of trying to defend his crew’s mistake with “excuses and lies.” But the airline also admitted that Ms. Cho’s decision to remove him from the flight was “excessive.”

On the plus side, it seems Cho is now being humiliated in the same way she humiliated the crew, and that she plans on apologizing to the crew in person:

On Friday, Ms. Cho seemed chastened by the public embarrassment. As she arrived for questioning at the offices of South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, she spoke in a barely audible whisper with her head bowed as a scrum of journalists snapped photos and thrust microphones in her face. She then said she would apologize in person to the crew members she was accused of abusing.

Karma is a bitch, eh?

  1. I’m Japanese/Korean. I’ve certainly experienced the…extremes…of those cultures. My godparents were having a home built in Tokyo, and the construction workers delivered the wrong typer of flooring. The problem was to be fixed in two days, not even delaying completion of the house. The lead contractor got down on his hands and knees, put his forehead on the dirt and begged her forgiveness. Conversely, I’ve seen an older businessman at one of the nicer restaurants in Tokyo throw a very heavy (and hard) menu at a waiter for evidently asking him the wrong question. He was +65 with 3 girls who were BARELY 18… That stuff is more common in Asia than one thinks, and it’s not usually seen if you stick to the tourist traps. All of that being said, I’m a fourth generation asian-American, and if someone hit me with a folder of documents, I would snatch it out of their hands and smack them RIGHT back.

  2. She had a bad day, overreacted, and treated people in a way that they should not be treated. They deserve a heartfelt apology. The end. Continued sensationalism is simply cruel, and as titilating and seemingly entertaining as the whole thing seems I wish this blog and others would stop feeding the monster. If you catch any one of us on our worst day, there is stuff we are not proud about. If it happened to be on video, or touch the right cultural, political or racial chord it could destroy our lives. This is similar to the recent story about a lawyer in New York who acted like an ass about a food bill that was too high. He’s being destroyed, in the current blood sport of the times. Just freaking say no. Yes, these people did repulsive things, but so has everyone reading this. Maybe they are repulsive people, but you really have no idea. Maybe she has acted with kindness in her better moments or has gone out of her way at some point to make someone’s life better, but we’ll never know now, because it doesn’t fit the spoiled brat narrative. This is the new gladiator games, and whe she’s chewed up and spit out we’ll all move on to the next raw meat, because there will always be some new meat, because everyone does stupid stuff. The only question is in which direction will the cell phone camera be pointed. Hope it’s not in yours.

  3. Overboard reaction suggests psychopathology, a personality disorder like narcissistic or borderline personality disorder – quite likely the latter considering the anger component.

  4. Wow people who are defending her do know that this whole coverage won’t really hurt her right? She is still rich and her family still own one of the largest corporation in Korea. It is not like the whole coverage is over some nobody on the street. She is a public figure in Korea, and frankly, her family is pretty use to these negative coverage. Don’t seem to hurt them much at all. Go read up about her dad and other large Korean family owned corporations. They really don’t need and probably don’t care about our sympathies.

  5. Larry, I respect your opinion, but your comparison is very poor. She forced the plane to turn around and forced the purser off the plane. All the passengers were inconvenienced, she grossly misused her power, and she thoroughly humiliated human beings.

    Your diatribe may have some valid points, but I can’t see how they apply here. This is, by far, the most egregious example of this kind of behavior I have seen in the news.

  6. Is it just me or was the excessive media attention a bit fishy to begin with? If the steward felt threatened by the company that he might potentially lose his job, what makes him able to speak up now and accuse the company? Does he not think he could be in deeper trouble for his disreputable behavior?

    Seems quite a broad move of the purser without a person or organization to back him up. Just my two cents

  7. @ Garrett
    OH NO Garrett! After having said what you said now, how will people like Brian from The Gate and Gary from View from the Wing marginalize Asians and Asian-Americans as a whole and continue to lampoon other cultures with cultural insensitivity (read ‘soft bigotry’) and claiming to do no such thing whilst remaining purveyors of, well, that very thing?

    Look, I don’t claim to know any of those cultures enough to make or pass judgement (or make mini-incendiary remarks to get more credit card affiliate payouts – which is anyone’s right). I lived there, worked in Asia for over a decade and married a nice lady who I see as a human being and a lady first and not just Asian and I still don’t make certain types of remarks seen and heard amongst the frequent flyer blogosphere! Even I know not to make commentary on a peoples that deserve more dignity and respect than those jackwads sometimes instinctually can’t seem to give.

    So barring the racial/ethnic element of this incident that so many of us seem to not be able to do, I’ll say this.

    Accosting someone during and in their place of work is not a good idea. Delaying hundreds of people for other than a serious or life threatening matter, also not a good idea. Assaulting someone, with a folder or anything for that matter, an even worse idea. Helping to quiet the ignorant storm before it begins from some of those who make the rest of us look bad amongst our non-American or minority citizens of the world? Always a good idea.

    Oh, and I more or less agree with Larry. Yeah, what he said.

  8. The question is, will this lead to any change in Korean corporate culture? Probably not, this is just a blip and things will continue as they always are (“manager is always right!” even when he/she isn’t).

  9. I have to give credit to the purser for protecting his crew and not even mentioning the first class flight attendant who gave her the bag of macadamia nuts.

  10. For the love of all that’s holy, can we please agree that this ends the nut saga? Though I’ll probably keep reading if there’s more nut news.

  11. The BIG take-a-way here is that this is the very same culture that caused multiple air accidents in KA’s past. Did anyone read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point”? Asiana as well at SFO. That is what makes this incident so alarming in my estimation.

  12. Great post Lucky! I for one don’t mind reading how this entire story is truly unfolding and how ALL the details of it including the attempted coverup is coming out. As the saying goes, the truth will set you free and for those who feel that they had enough and tried to justify this extremely poor and deplorable behavior of a high management executive as someone just having a bad day, is truly sad.

    If you don’t want to read about it then don’t, but to pretend that this incident was simply an issue of just a bad day at work, to me, is an incomprehensible and naive attitude to have especially for this day and age.

    Yes Karma is a bitch and once in awhile, it does come back to bite you. I totally agree with @Orlijr @DaveD and good for you @Garrett

  13. I sense a lot of jealousy and sexism. Sexist people are obviously threatened by a woman who is powerful and jealous of how rich she is. The best way to make one feel better about how powerless and poor they are is to try to pull a successful person down.

    Just my opinion. Would this story go viral if it was a poor man who did this? Nope. This happens all the time on flights with less influential people yet it never makes the news or goes viral.

  14. And the chief steward should be embarrassed. He failed at his job. Did not know the rules and regulations for first class and also didn’t know safety concerns.

  15. Pro Cho is “pro-physically assaulting someone who makes a mistake at their job” or maybe he just thinks non-rich people should be able to be at the mercy of rich narcissists and they should freely beat poor people. Oh boo hoo for this rich, spoiled brat. Sounds like you two are cut from the same a-hole cloth.

  16. I agree with the commenter that speculates this woman has a mental health issue. If a fraction of this story is true, she is insane.

  17. The other First class passenger is finally speaking out–She contacted the Korean Air customer service to complain about the tense environment Ms Chi caused before and during the flight. The other passenger didn’t know who Ms Cho was until she read about it later. After the 2nd call a Korean Air executive contacted her to not to speak to the local media or if she talks to them don’t be harsh on Ms. Cho. Lucky, you will like this part—to compensate this passengers inconvenience KE offered her a calendar and a miniature plane. lol. Whatever. KE so deserve this for themselves.

  18. @ NYCWahoo — OMG, no way! Is there an article about this somewhere? Can’t find anything about it online.

  19. This nutty controversy focuses on the blatant abuse of power and authority of the entitled elitists. The outrage surrounds the Cho family which built a huge conglomerate in Korea whose offspring are above the law and out of touch with reality: Heather who gave birth to twin boys in Hawaii to obtain US citizenship for them and to avoid compulsory military duty for two years after they turn 18. Her brother was charged for assault. And others had run-in with the law. I am familiar with the world’s major cultures of Asian, Arab, Western, African and Hispanic, due to my personal upbringing, knowledge, experiences and exposure to them rather than solely based on gossips and media coverage. We must not excuse anyone under any circumstance and hold them accountable and responsible for their misconduct. Did the punishment fit the crime in this case or others in the news lately, such as CIA torture and police deadly shootings? If we rationalize,defend and support such behavior and misconduct, then we will head down the slippery rope of barbaric and sadistic practices in our supposedly egalitarian society that set us above all others.It is utterly absurb to link sexism to this case.We set higher expectations and standards on the wealthy and those in power with influences because they do not have to worry about daily life struggles but have the fiduciary duties that come with high position .The expectation is that they will provide leadership to enrich the citizens lives and strengthen and unify the country.It is highly unlikely that Cho will be disciplined or reprimanded by the government agency, except just a gentle slap on the wrist. People who rise above dire situation, adversity and challenges while maintaining their professionalism, dignity and integrity to tackle problems and reach sound solutions should be highly commended.
    @Larry: I don’t know the story about the NY lawyer but in our litigious society, lawyers are only being destroyed by their colleagues in the profession. They have a choke hold in all facets of our lives. Just look at all the three branches of government. But there is a story about an associate prof at MITwho took to his social media account to vent his anger at a Chinese restaurant that shortchanged him $4 on his four orders that totaled around $72. The restaurant manager offered to refund half the bill but he refused. He demanded compensation and restitution in lieu of the possible lawsuit. He faced ridicule and anger from others that he finally issued a public apology.
    @Garrett: I will never resort to physical altercation because you will be prosecuted for assault. It shows that they successfully bring you down to their level.
    @Orlijir: When and how many airplane crashes did Korea Air have in its history? What’s its record/ progress since then? What about the worldwide economic collapse in 2008 that was perpetrated by American executives at all Wall Street firms? Has the culture changed within the banking giants?Did anyone face jail terms, loss of employment or financial restitution? What are the indefinite and lingering financial and psychological impacts on human lives worldwide? The DOJ collected billions of dollars in fines on paper but these fines are partially tax-deductible and taken from taxpayers coffer, employees’ and investors funds, not the executives’ bonuses and compensation/ severance packages.
    @Jonathan: there are few endangered people in the society who will stand up to authority and risk their reputation and employment prospects in order to do the honorable things. You have no right to question his integrity and credibility. I wouldn’t use the word ” accuse” but rather “allege”. There is no opportunity for him to cash in his “fifteen minutes fame” in Korea like in this society. He will lose more than he gains after the dust has settled.

  20. “Helping to quiet the ignorant storm before it begins from some of those who make the rest of us look bad amongst our non-American or minority citizens of the world?”

    So you are worried that all Americans will be stereotyped negatively by non-American or minorities around the world due to the actions of some Americans? That might be the dumbest thing I’ve read all week, not to mention condescending to all those “minorities.” Quite telling is that you refer to non-Americans as “minorities.” Nice to see you’ve appointed yourself, by virtue of being an American, as in “the majority.” You are so busy pointing out the supposed bigotry of others that you cant even see it in yourself.

  21. @unlucky – I gotta say you made me do more work than I expected.

    Your randomly addressed comment was intended for @Tanner on 12/12 at 11:04p.

    It’d be quite helpful to name your target before your attack/rant.

    Now, I retire with my tired scroll wheel. Case closed.

  22. Lucky – just out of curiosity, do you think the situation would’ve gotten so nutty if it had been your NRT-ICN flight American pilot or LAX-GRU flight Portuguese pilot in the cockpit that day?

  23. @ Mangoceviche — Great question. To some degree if it were an American pilot I think they would have returned to the gate to offload the disruptive passenger.

    That being said, I’m not really too familiar with labor relations at Korean Air. I’m not sure how their ex-pat pilots are treated and what kind of contracts and union representation they have. It does create a really sticky situation when it’s the chairman’s daughter.

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