The airline Korean Air has suspended one of its chairman’s daughters from her marketing role after an alleged violent outburst at a business meeting, prompting public outrage and a police investigation.
Cho Hyun-min, also known as Emily Cho, is the younger sister of another executive of the airline who caused a flight to be delayed in 2014 because of “nut rage” while onboard.
Korean Air said Cho, a senior vice-president, was suspended from work starting on Monday. It said it would take further action after the police investigation.
Cho allegedly hurled a cup of water at an advertising agency official during a meeting last month. She later apologised on Facebook, saying the outburst was sparked by her passion for commercials. Cho oversaw Korean Air’s marketing and commercials.
“I apologise for my foolish behaviour,” she said. “It is my big fault that I could not control my emotions.”
Cho’s sister, Hyun-ah, achieved worldwide notoriety after delaying a flight at John F Kennedy airport over the way nuts were served.
The police investigation will determine whether Cho threw the water on the floor, as Korean Air maintains, or toward the official’s face, as some media report, which could constitute physical assault.
The case is seen as the latest abuse of power by elite business families that exercise excessive influence over publicly listed companies in South Korea, even though the families are not majority shareholders. Large Korean industrial conglomerates run and controlled by an owner or family are known as chaebols. Members of their founding families are often seen as being treated as “emperors”.
More than 56,000 South Koreans have signed a petition submitted to the presidential office asking the government to stop Korean Air from using the word “Korea” in its name.
“There is a huge chance that foreigners who read the news about the founding family’s abuse of power would assume that it is part of South Korea’s national image,” the petition read.