South Korean flight attendant Kim Do-hee is suing Korean Air and jailed former executive Heather Cho in the US over what became known as the “nut rage” incident.
Lawyers for Kim Do-hee allege that Heather Cho verbally and physically attacked the flight attendant for the way she served nuts on a plane taking off from New York’s JFK airport on December 5.
Heather Cho, also known as Cho Hyun-ah, later ordered the taxiing plane to offload another flight steward.
Last month, Heather Cho was jailed for one year for obstructing aviation safety.
Cho Hyun-ah was a vice-president overseeing cabin service for Korean Air, and is also the daughter of the airline’s chairman. She is appealing against her conviction.
Kim Do-hee’s civil lawsuit, filed in New York City, is seeking compensation for damage to her career, reputation and emotional wellbeing.
It alleges that Heather Cho screamed and hit Kim Do-hee after being served the nuts in their bag not a bowl.
Kim Do-hee’s lawyers said that “the evidence in this case will demonstrate that Cho’s actions were not only humiliating, degrading, and damaging to Kim, but were also emblematic of Cho’s unbridled arrogance and disturbing sense of entitlement”.
The summons also stated the flight attendant was pressured to lie to government investigators to cover up the incident and to appear in public with Heather Cho “as part of an orchestrated effort to try and rehabilitate Cho’s public image”, reported AP.
They said the airline had not responded to Kim Do-hee’s attempt to settle her claim privately.
Earlier reports said that after Heather Cho was served the nuts by Kim Do-hee, she summoned head steward Park Chang-jin and confronted him about the presentation.
Park Chang-jin said in a television interview in December that he was forced to kneel in front of Heather Cho, who then ordered him off the flight.
The case opened a national debate about the Korean business system, which is dominated by family companies known as chaebols.
Some of the families running these businesses have been accused of high-handedness and acting with impunity.
The trial of Korean Air executive Cho Hyun-ah, who flew into a rage when macadamia nuts were served to her in a bag and not on a plate, has begun in Seoul.
Cho Hyun-ah, also known as Heather Cho, ordered her plane that was taxiing to return to the gate and offload the chief steward.
The “nut rage” incident occurred on a Seoul-bound flight from New York on December 5.
On January 19, Cho Hyun-ah pleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing aviation safety.
Heather Cho, 40, who has been detained since December 30, was wearing a green prison uniform in the packed courtroom.
She stood with her head lowered and answered questions in a whisper.
Her lawyers argued in the opening statement that the charges were based on “exaggerated statements” and that the safety violations were minor given the plane was still on the ground and had not yet reached the runway.
Heather Cho, who is the daughter of Korean Air chief executive Cho Yang-ho, is also accused of interfering in the execution of a government official’s duty and coercion, according to prosecutors, who said she allegedly exerted influence in the government investigation.
She faces a maximum 10 years in jail if found guilty of diverting the aircraft with no good reason.
Cho Hyun-ah publicly apologized for the incident and resigned from all her posts at the airline in December.
However, the story was widely seen as an example of poor management in South Korea’s family-run conglomerates, or “chaebols” that dominate the country’s business landscape.
The Korean transport ministry said it would place sanctions on Korean Air of a ban on some routes or fines of up to $2 million.
Former Korean Air VP Heather Cho has tried to apologize in person to two flight attendants for the way she treated them over how she was served nuts.
Heather Cho, also known as Cho Hyun-ah visited the homes of the pair – but both were out, so she left them a note instead.
She had ordered the head steward be removed from a flight after being served nuts in a bag, not on a plate.
The incident forced the flight to Seoul to be delayed. She resigned from her posts in the company afterwards.
The head steward, Park Chang-jin, has alleged that Heather Cho forced him and a female attendant to kneel and beg forgiveness.
However, Heather Cho has denied this: “I’ve never heard such thing. I don’t know anything about it,” AFP quoted her as saying.
Heather Cho told a news conference on Friday that she was sorry for her behavior.
Her father, Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-Ho, also apologized for what he called his daughter’s “foolish act”.
Heather Cho said his daughter would step down from all her posts in companies under the Cho family-owned Hanjin Group, which also owns Korean Air. She had been head of in-flight service for the airline.
The Hanjin Group is one of South Korea’s top family conglomerates, called chaebol.
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