Korean Air found itself in the spotlight this week when the chairman’s daughter, an executive at the carrier, forced a crew member to leave the plane after she was served snack nuts improperly.
The incident highlighted broader concerns about the sense of entitlement among the moneyed elite in South Korea. The country’s economy is dominated by family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebol, in which family members wield great influence in the companies.
Here’s a look at two members of the Cho family behind Korean Air Lines Co., the country’s largest airline:
Cho Yang-ho: Korean Air’s chairman and CEO and son of the company’s founder. Cho is also chairman and CEO of the Hanjin Group, a global transportation conglomerate of 48 companies that includes the airline. He was also recently named chairman and CEO of Hanjin Shipping, a global shipping and logistics company.
He was convicted of tax evasion in 2000, facing charges with his father and brother. The Chos were charged with receiving millions in rebates when they purchased airplanes from Boeing and Airbus and evading taxes on the money. The tax probe came after the country’s president criticized Korean Air’s poor safety record. Cho is also highly involved in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic winter games, heading up the bid committee and now organizing committee. Cho is also co-chairman of the Korea-U.S. Business Council and vice chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries.
Cho Hyun-ah: The daughter of the chairman, former executive vice president of Korean Air and star of the snack dispute.
Cho, 40, is the oldest child of Cho Yang-ho. Her two siblings are also leaders at the company.
According to her biography on Nanyang Technological University’s website, she joined Korean Air in 1999 and managed the catering and in-flight sales business, cabin service and hotel business divisions for the company. Also known as Heather Cho, she is the CEO of KAL Hotel Network, an affiliate of Korean Air. According to the biography, she is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and holds an MBA from the University of Southern California.
Cho resigned from her role at Korean Air Tuesday amid a storm of public criticism over her actions. The airline had earlier excused her behavior even as it apologized for inconveniencing passengers. She could face legal action if a probe shows that she interrupted the flight or endangered safety by using threats, her status or violence.