Korea Nut Rage Saga: Two Daughters Gone, Mom To Follow?

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Korean Air workers protest controversial management family.

First there was the nut rage incident. Now it seems like the whole family might be nuts.

The matriarch of the Korean Air dynasty is being investigated by police for allegations of abusing employees, becoming the third member of her close family to be accused of throwing tantrums in the workplace. 

South Korea police launched a formal probe against Lee Myung-hee, 69, after a video allegedly showing her shoving and berating hotel construction employees went viral, reported the JoongAng Daily. 

Lee is the wife of Cho Yang-ho, chairman of the Hanjin conglomerate, which owns Korean Air. She is also chairwoman of Hanjin’s non-profit Ilwoo Foundation. Police sources told the South Korean media that they had witnesses who claimed that she had abused employees. 

The video in question was reportedly shot in 2014, but it surfaced a few weeks after Cho’s younger daughter, Hyun-min, 36, a marketing executive in her family’s empire, publicly apologized for flying into a rage and allegedly throwing a water bottle during a meeting with an advertising agency. 

Hyun-min’s older sister, Hyun-ah, 44, made global headlines in 2014 for an infamous row in a Seoul-bound plane in New York over macadamia nuts. 

Incensed that a stewardess had served her nuts in a bag and not a bowl, she forced the employee and the cabin crew chief to kneel and apologize before ordering the plane back to the gate and ejecting them. 

In the public outrage that ensued, she was charged with obstructing aviation safety and sentenced to a year in prison, although she was released after three months. 

The “water rage” incident has reignited public anger against the family’s perceived entitlement. In an effort to quell criticism, Cho Yang-ho apologized in late April for his daughters’ behaviour and said they would step down from their positions at the company to allow management to “turn over a new leaf."

However, his move did nothing to placate hundreds of Korean Air employees who protested in central Seoul over the weekend, demanding that the chairman himself stand down. 

“We can’t put up with the Cho family’s abuses anymore. Cho family, leave the company!” flight attendant, Park Chang-jin, told his coworkers, according to Reuters. 

Their protest reflected dwindling patience at the unchecked power of Korea’s family-run conglomerates. But in a sign that employees may still fear the influence of the rich and powerful, many protesters carrying “No mercy” signs also wore Guy Fawkes masks to conceal their identities. 

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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