Korean Air heiress Cho Hyun-ah appears to have survived the public shaming following her outburst on a flight departing JFK in 2014 but the employees she abused are not as fortunate.
It was a tantrum heard around the world. Korean Air executive and daughter of the airline’s chairman Cho Yang-ho, dressed down a pair of first class cabin crew members for serving pre-flight nuts in a package rather than a bowl. Cho Hyun-ah made the flight attendants kneel in front of her and apologize to her before she ordered the plane to return to to the gate so that the employees could be removed from the aircraft.
It was later revealed that a new airline policy requiring flight attendants to serve nuts in their original packaging as an added protection for passengers with food allergies had been distributed days earlier. A nuance Cho Hyun-ah was reportedly not interested in hearing about during her violent outburst.
For a while, it looked as if the privileged and abusive executive would be served her just desserts for her next snack. She lost her job and earned public ridicule both home and abroad. She was eventually sentenced to spend time behind bars after being convicted of violations including illegally distracting the flight crew, assaulting a cabin crew member, forcing crew members to leave the aircraft and demanding that the flight alter its scheduled route.
As the public and media slowly lost interest in the story, however, Cho Hyun-ah’s fortunes soon began to change for the better. The wealthy heiress was quietly released from jail just a matter of weeks into her two-year prison sentence.
Now, the Straits Times reports that the disgraced airline executive is once again living the high life. She was spotted jogging in the Olympic torch ceremony as her influential father carried the Olympic symbol on the parade route. She is also scheduled to attend Olympic events, including the opening ceremonies as a VIP guest of her former employer. Korean Air is a key corporate sponsor of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Unfortunately, the senior flight attendant who bore the brunt of Cho Hyun-ah’s rage has not had quite as much success moving on from the humiliating incident. Park Chang-jin says he was unfairly demoted to a job that includes scrubbing toilets as a duty following the now infamous flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Incheon International Airport (ICN). Since the incident, he says he has suffered constant verbal abuse from his superiors at the airline and has been forced to use months of sick time to deal with the clinical depression and anxiety that he attributes to the hostile work environment. Like his coworker on the flight, he has filed a lawsuit naming both the airline and Cho Hyun-ah.
“I have suffered physically and psychologically,” Park Chang-jin told the newspaper. ”I want to fight for my rights, even though I am just a little guy up against a huge company. I want our people to think about what’s wrong and what’s right.”