South Korean heiress apologizes to flight attendants for ′nut rage′ | News | DW | 14.12.2014
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South Korean heiress apologizes to flight attendants for 'nut rage'

The daughter of Korean Air Lines chairman has apologized to the two flight attendants she harrassed about improperly served macadamia nuts. One steward described her allegedly outlandish behavior on South Korean TV.

Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of Korean Air Lines Chairman Cho Yang-ho and former head of cabin service for the company, apologized personally on Sunday to two flight attendants she admitted insulting and humiliating in an incident dubbed "nut rage" by the media.

Cho made headlines last week over her behavior on a Korean Air Lines jet, in which the 40-year-old executive delayed the New York-Seoul flight because she was dissatisfied with the way an attendant served her macadamia nuts. New details about the events have emerged, with the flight attendant in question claiming he was asked to lie to investigators and forced to kneel by Cho.

"People who haven't experienced [this] will not understand that feeling of being insulted and shamed," said senior flight attendant Park Chang-jin on South Korea's KBS television network. After Cho became enraged that the first-class steward brought her the nuts, which she had not ordered, in a packet instead of a bowl, Park says he and his colleague were made to kneel in front of her, before being called names and pushed into the cockpit door.

According to Park, Cho shouted to the cabin crew to "call right now and stop the plane. I will stop this plane from leaving." In his KBS interview, Park said he feared to "disobey the daughter of the owner."

Cho vehemently denies forcing anyone to kneel, saying on Sunday: "I've never heard of such a thing. I don't know anything about it."

She went to the homes of both Park and his unnamed colleague, but as neither of them was home she left notes of apology.

Privilege and arrogance

She resigned her post as head of cabin service for Korean Air Lines shortly after the incident, and both Cho and her father made public apologies at press conferences. Cho told journalists, "I sincerely apologize. I'm sorry," a few hours after her father had bowed to members of the press corps and taken responsibility for failing "to raise the child properly."

The drama has captivated South Korea, where Cho has been called a "princess" and chided by the media. Amid growing criticism of such displays of entitlement, many point the finger at a culture in which business dynasties were credited with leading the country to modernization and wealth.

Cho is being questioned by state authorities about whether she violated aviation law.

A silver lining

There's an unexpected silver lining to Cho's "nut rage" incident, which has prompted numerous media reports and parodies on the Internet.

Sales in the rich, buttery nut have soared in South Korea, where the flavor was previously unfamiliar to many in the country.

Auction, a South Korean unit of eBay and South Korea's second-largest e-commerce website, said Monday that sales of macadamias surged nearly 12-fold during the previous five days without any promotions. Now, macadamias account for almost half of its nut sales compared to 5 percent from earlier, it said.

On Gmarket, South Korea's largest online shopping retailer, macadamia nut sales jumped 20 times during the six days to Sunday compared with the previous week.

The website of e-commerce firm Coupang showed Mauna Loa macadamia nuts had sold out, with about 100 users asking on the comments section for the product to be quickly restocked.

es/tj/el (AP, AFP)