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Former Korean Air executive apologises for 'nut rage'

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Media captionHeather Cho spoke so quietly at a news conference she could barely be heard

Former Korean Air executive Heather Cho has apologised for delaying a plane over a serving of nuts, in her first public appearance since the incident.

Her father, airline chairman Cho Yang-ho, also apologised at a news conference, amid a simmering backlash in South Korea.

He said Ms Cho, who has resigned from the airline, would be stripped of roles in affiliated companies.

The government is probing the incident, which has dominated headlines.

Ms Cho was onboard a Korean Airlines plane departing from New York for Incheon last week when she demanded a crew member to be removed, after she was served nuts in a bag, instead of on a plate.

Korean Air initially defended Ms Cho's behaviour, noting that as vice-president overseeing flight service, she was responsible for making sure service standards were upheld. It later apologised.

On Friday afternoon Ms Cho bowed in apology when she spoke to reporters outside a government building, where she was due to meet transport officials.

"I sincerely apologise," she said, adding that she planned to say sorry personally to affected crew members.

Hours earlier her father called a press conference and said he was apologising "as a father and head of Korean Air".

He called his daughter's conduct "foolish", and added: "I beg the people to blame me for the current situation, because everything is my fault... I failed to properly educate my daughter."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Cho bowed as he addressed reporters at the company's headquarters

Mr Cho also announced that his daughter would step down from all her posts in companies under the Cho family-owned Hanjin Group, which also owns Korean Air.

Ms Cho was the chief executive of KAL Hotel Network, Wangsan Leisure Development, and Hanjin Travel Service, and also a board director of Korean Air, according to Yonhap news agency.


Analysis: Stephen Evans, BBC News, Seoul

The "nut rage fiasco", as the Korean papers call it, has generated intense debate.

The Korea Times, for example, compares Korean Air with BMW. Both are firms which are substantially owned by families, but the German firm is run by people who started at the bottom - its chief executive has no family ties. As the paper puts it: "The two (companies) couldn't be further apart from each other in terms of corporate governance".

A business school professor in Seoul described the incident as a "dismal side effect of dynastic leadership succession", while a left-wing campaign group said it illustrated a "feudal form of employer-employee relationship".

There is also much ruminating on the behaviour of the rich. It seems that air crew, in particular, can have a difficult time when serving them. Last year, a passenger in business class slapped a stewardess with his rolled-up magazine because he felt his rice was under-cooked.


The Hanjin Group is one of South Korea's top family conglomerates, called chaebol.

Some South Koreans resent the chaebols for dominating the economy. Some of the families running these businesses have been accused of acting with impunity, and running companies with a lack of transparency or poor corporate governance.

The Cho family has made headlines before. Mr Cho was at the epicentre of a tax evasion and embezzlement scandal in the late 1990s and was later jailed for seven months.

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