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Korean Air third-gen resigns after macadamia nut row goes public

By Jessica Tasman-Jones

The third-gen vice president of Korean Air has resigned after she delayed one of its flights because an air steward served her macadamia nuts in a bag, rather than on a plate.

Heather Cho, 40, is the eldest daughter of Cho Yang Ho, who is chairman of the airline, and its parent company Hanjin Group.

In a flight from New York on 5 December, Cho berated a junior steward for the way he had presented the nuts, and insisted the plane taxi back the terminal so he could be removed from the flight.

The plane, carrying 250 passengers, was destined for Incheon and arrived 11 minutes late due to Cho's demand.

The fracas, which has gained considerable media attention, will do little to improve the reputation of South Korea's conglomerates, known as chaebol. They are perceived to stifle competition and entrepreneurship.

A local newspaper Dong-A Ilbo said Cho's “sense of privilege” was typical of chaebol families.

In a statement to the Korea Times, the airline initially supported Cho, stating: "The chief flight attendant failed to get the right manual, and this led Cho to believe he was not qualified for that job.” It added that one of Cho's duties was to ensure quality of service.

Hanjin Group's other significant holding is its eponymous shipping subsidiary.

Cho Yang Ho has been chief executive of Korean Air since 1992, becoming chairman in 1999. In that same year he was convicted for tax evasion and embezzlement. Cho has said the convictions were politically motivated.

Korean Air was founded by the government in 1962 and privatised seven years later by Cho's father, the late Cho Choong Hoon.

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