SEOUL, Dec 24 – Prosecutors said Tuesday that they will seek an arrest warrant for the former vice president of Korean Air at the center of a controversial incident dubbed “nut rage.”
Cho Hyun-ah, the eldest daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, resigned earlier this month after a national uproar over her conduct aboard a Seoul-bound Korean Air flight from New York’s JFK Airport.
She ordered the cabin crew chief of the plane that was already on the taxiway to get off because she was displeased about the way she was served her macadamia nuts — in an unopened pack instead of on a plate. She chastised the crew for not following the service manual for first-class passengers.
The flight, with some 250 other passengers aboard, had to return to the gate to deplane the purser, causing an 11-minute delay in its arrival at Seoul’s main gateway, Incheon International Airport.
Seoul Western Prosecutors’ Office probing the case said on Tuesday that it will request an arrest warrant for Cho on Wednesday morning.
Charges against Cho would include violation of the aviation law and coercion, prosecutors said.
“The prosecution judged that the incident was critical as the chief purser, who has judicial police power, was kicked off from the plane. Also his personal rights were severely violated, prompting confusion in keeping order on the plane,” said a prosecutor close to the investigation.
During questioning by prosecutors last week, Cho had flatly denied that she had physically assaulted the chief purser, prosecution officials said.
The prosecution office, however, concluded that she had pushed the flight attendant, based on the testimony of passengers and other flight attendants at the scene.
The prosecution office said it also plans to seek an arrest warrant for a company executive, only identified by his surname Yeo, on charges of ordering employees to delete an initial report of the incident.
A Seoul court is scheduled to hold a hearing early next week to review the prosecution’s request and determine whether to issue an arrest warrant for Cho, court officials said.
Also on Tuesday, the transport ministry referred one of its officials to prosecutors for investigation over allegations that he had leaked some details of the ministry’s investigation into the incident.
The transpot ministry official, who formerly worked for Korean Air, is suspected of having made illegal contact with a Korean Air executive dozens of times over three days after the ministry opened its probe into the incident on Dec. 8.