KAL's 'nut rage' woman hurls open criticism at brother and Hanjin group chairman

By Lim Chang-won Posted : December 23, 2019, 14:15 Updated : December 23, 2019, 16:36

[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- Six months after she avoided legal punishment, Cho Hyun-ah, a former Korean Air vice president known for a "nut rage" incident in 2014, put an end to her prude life and hurled open criticism at her brother of running South Korea's Hanjin Group without prior consultations with family members on crucial group affairs.

Harking back to a death-bed counsel from her late father, the 45-year-old argued through her lawyer that Hanjin's new chairman Cho Won-tae has always maintained insincerity and delays in family consultations. "As a result, Hanjin Group is heading in a different direction than the teachings led by its former late chairman," she said in a statement published by her legal representative, One Law Partners.

As head of Hanjin-KAL, the group's de facto holding company, Cho Won-Tae, 43, was officially designated by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC), a state anti-trust watchdog, as group chairman in May to succeed his father who died on April 8. The late chairman's two daughters and their mother have held shares in Hanjin-KAL.

However, Cho Hyun-ah insisted that her brother became the group's leader "without substantial agreement or sufficient discussion" among family members. "Important management matters have been decided without prior consultations," she said, adding there has been no agreement on her comeback to management.

Hanjin said that group executives and employees were making strenuous efforts to meet the expectations of shareholders and the market by enhancing corporate value while restoring public trust despite a difficult business environment. "We believe this is the earnest wish and teachings of the late chairman Cho Yang-ho."

"We hope the controversy will not hurt the stability of corporate management and negatively affect corporate value at a critical time when the group is laying the groundwork for a new change recently," the group said in a statement.

Hanjin has been hit hard by a series of scandals since the new chairman's younger sister, Cho Hyun-min, threw a glass cup and sprayed plum juice during a business meeting with advertising agency officials. The incident fueled public anger, leading to multiple investigations into the late chairman, his wife and children on charges of creating a slush fund, evading taxes, bringing in luxury foreign goods illegally, abusing and assaulting company employees and others.

Cho Hyun-ah was charged with having smuggled goods through an airport clearance desk for Korean Air. However, a court handed down a suspended jail sentence in June, clearing legal obstacles to her comeback as a Hanjin group executive.

Cho Hyun-ah became enraged in December 2014 when a flight attendant served her some nuts in a bag on board a flight that was forced back to the gate while taxiing to the runway. She was given a prison sentence on conviction of violating aviation safety laws, but an appeals court suspended her sentence in May 2015. In March last year, she came back to head Hanjin's hotel business unit, KAL Hotel Network, but she lost her title again due to a scandal caused by her sister.

Cho Hyun-min came back as Hanjin KAL's executive director and a vice president of Jungseok Enerprise, a real estate management arm of the group, 14 months after she stood down as Korean Air's executive director.

By inhering the late chairman's stake, Cho Won-tae owns 6.46 percent of Hanjin-KAL, Cho Hyun-ah 6.43 percent, Cho Hyun-min 6.42 percent and their mother 5.27 percent.

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