Korean Air chief's daughter faces ministry investigation

Korean Air chief's daughter faces ministry investigation

The repercussions of Korean Air's "nut rage" incident are expected to build as Heather Cho, daughter of the airline's chairman, faces a government summons to question her on why she caused the delay of a Korean Air flight and deplaned a flight attendant last week, the Transport Ministry said Thursday.

The ministry issued a notification requesting her appearance for questioning on Friday, said Lee Gwang-hee, aviation safety division director of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

Cho will appear for the questioning, the company said.

The ministry has also asked Korean Air to supply the list of passengers on the Friday flight, with their contact information, to clarify the facts. Korean Air has yet to comply.

The authorities are urging passengers to come forward and talk about what really happened. They have finished questioning 10 Korean Air employees, including the pilot of flight KE086 and the cabin crew.

Adding more pressure to Korean Air, the Seoul Seobu District Prosecutors' Office on Thursday raided the airline's Seoul and Incheon headquarters to collect documents including the black box and flight operation records of the plane in question.

"We conducted a hasty raid as the case has drawn public attention and concerns over fabrication of evidence," a prosecution official said.

After analysing the documents, the prosecutors plan to question Cho, who is suspected of violating aviation safety law and obstruction of business.

A day before, progressive civic group the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy had filed a complaint with the prosecution, claiming that Korean Air's management has forced its employees to make false testimonies to put the blame on the chief flight attendant who was forced to leave the plane.

On Monday, news reports revealed that Cho, 40, had ordered an employee to deplane over service standards while she was traveling in first class.

The plane, carrying 250 passengers, had to taxi back to the terminal in New York to drop off the chief flight attendant before heading for Incheon. This caused a delay of 11 minutes in the flight.

The authorities are currently investigating whether Cho's actions infringed aviation laws.

The key points of the investigation include whether she was shouting while on board and detailed reasons for why the employee left the plane, and why the plane had to return to the terminal.

On Tuesday, Cho stepped down from all posts at Korean Air except as executive vice president. The day after, she said she would resign from this position as well.

Korean Air's labour union has demanded a formal apology from Cho to the employees for violating their rights.

hnpark@heraldcorp.com

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