Court hears appeal in Korean Air heiress 'nut rage' case


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Cho Hyun-ah, also known as Heather Cho, daughter of chairman of Korean Air Lines. Photo: Reuters Cho Hyun-ah, also known as Heather Cho, daughter of chairman of Korean Air Lines. Photo: Reuters


The Seoul High Court began hearing an appeal Wednesday by the daughter of Korean Air's chairman against her conviction for disrupting a flight in a rage over some macadamia nuts.
Cho Hyun-Ah was jailed for a year in February after a district court found her guilty of violating aviation safety by forcing a taxiing New York-Seoul Korean Air Lines (KAL) flight to return to its departure gate.
Cho, who was a KAL vice president in charge of in-flight service at the time of the December 5 incident, had become enraged after a flight attendant served her some nuts in a bag, rather than on a plate.
She lambasted the chief steward over the behavior of his cabin crew and then insisted the plane return to the gate so he could be removed from the flight.
The 40-year-old's actions invited overseas ridicule and domestic embarrassment.
Many South Koreans saw her behavior as emblematic of a generation of spoilt and arrogant offspring of owners of the giant family-run conglomerates, or "chaebols", that dominate the national economy.
In sentencing Cho back in February, the court had crucially ruled that an aircraft should be deemed "in flight" from the moment it begins to move.
So even though the KAL flight had barely left the gate, she was found guilty of illegally altering the course of a plane.
It was this ruling that was understood to form the basis of Cho's appeal.
She was also convicted of assault on the cabin crew, with the chief steward, Park Chang-Jin, testifying that Cho had made him kneel and beg for forgiveness while jabbing him with a service manual.
The flight attendant who served the now infamous nuts has since filed a civil lawsuit, alleging Cho attacked, threatened and screamed obscenities and then pressured her to cover up the incident by lying to government regulators.
At the February trial, Cho was acquitted of obstruction of justice charges, but the prosecution has appealed that decision and asked for her one-year prison term to be extended.
Prosecutors had initially sought a three-year sentence, but the district court judge took into account the fact that Cho had two young children and that her personal and professional reputation had been shattered.

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