'Nut rage' fiasco spreads to family

'Nut rage' fiasco spreads to family
Korean Air heiress Cho Hyun-Ah (C) is surrounded by journalists at a court in Seoul on December 30, 2014.

A month-long drama that started with a flight delay over a packet of macadamia nuts continued Wednesday, when an arrest warrant was issued for Cho Hyun-ah, a former Korean Air executive accused of violating aviation safety law and obstructing the flight crew in their duties.

Cho, the eldest daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, became the first female chaebol scion to be held in a detention centre.

But the "nut rage" scandal spread to other members of the Cho family, after prosecutors revealed a text message on the same day in which Cho Hyun-min, the younger sister of Hyun-ah, promised to take revenge on behalf of her sister.

Cho Hyun-min promised she would "take revenge no matter what" via a text message on December 17, in apparent anger at the ongoing  investigation into her sister's actions.

Cho Hyun-min, the youngest daughter of chairman, is Korean Air's marketing vice president.

She apologised hours after the text message was reported by local media.

"I am sorry beyond words for the content of that text message," Hyun-min said through her Twitter account. "I'd rather not make any excuses. My immature behaviour is to blame."

Despite her apology, her text message reignited public anger at the Cho family members' sense of privilege over the employees of Hanjin Group, the parent company of Korean Air, over which they wield managerial control. A growing number of netizens called for the Cho family members to resign from their posts, saying they were not fit to be corporate leaders.

Industry watchers said her text message showed the "real face" of the Cho family, and were unsure of how Korean Air would be able to regain public trust.

"A number of Korean citizens cannot take the Cho sisters' apologies seriously. It might take considerably more time for Korean Air and its owner family to regain the public's trust," one said.

The Cho family members, who have become a symbol for public disdain of the chaebol, have a long history of public criticism for their wrongdoings or misconduct.

In 2013, Hyun-ah traveled to Hawaii, where she gave birth to twin boys. She was accused of having made the trip so that her sons would have automatic US citizenship and avoid Korea's two-year compulsory military service.

In 2005, her younger brother Won-tae, the executive vice president of the airline and several of the group's subsidiaries, was reportedly investigated by police for shoving an elderly woman who confronted him about his reckless driving.

In 2000, chairman Cho was convicted, along with her grandfather and uncle, of tax evasion and embezzlement.

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