Justice for the riches

If you are what you eat, you should avoid nuts.

I’m talking about Heather Cho, who was the vice-president of Korean Airlines, the daughter of the CEO of Korean Air, and a very important hotshot in South Korean business scene which is mostly run by powerful families, known as chaebol. These business families are often known by how they can bend the law and act above it.

She had a good education (a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Managament from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Southern California), a career (She became an executive in 2006, and she was just 32 years of age), the riches, the fame……the perfect life as we see it.

But the evil entity in this story is not her, it is the Macadamia Nuts. Quite expensive than other nuts. You can wiki for other forms of trivia like nutritional value of these nuts….as those boring information are not part of this story.

Now, one fine day in early December last year, Ms. Cho was waiting to fly from the J.F.K. airport to Incheon, in a first class cabin of the Korean Airlines.

And then the macadamia nuts arrived to her in a bag. This is an important detail of the story. Because this small, seemingly insignificant, trivial detail derailed the natural course of events thereafter. It led to Heather Cho being interrogated by criminal prosecutors.

All because the Macadamia nuts arrived in a bag, and not in a bowl, it unscrewed some nuts in Miss Cho’s patience chamber and let out some rage. Apparently, the Korean Air company guidelines had it laid out that the nuts should be served in a bowl/dish and not in a plastic bag.

So what followed was that…

there were heated verbal and physical confrontation between Ms. Cho and crew members;
the head of the crew was physically attacked by Ms. Cho. He was made to kneel down and admit his mistake, while Ms. Cho yelled for the crew to “stop the plane”.
the aircraft was flown to the gate in order to expel the head of the crew; he had to take another flight to South Korea.
as a result of all these nutty incidents, the flight was delayed by 11 minutes, while about 250 passengers waited on board.

The nuts were laughing. More things were to follow, obviously. Although initially Korean Air initially defended Ms. Cho, widespread public outrage against this incident made Ms. Cho ask for a public apology. A Seoul court charged Cho, of forcing a flight to change its route, obstructing the flight’s captain in the performance of his duties, forcing a crew member off a plane and assaulting a crew member. Ms. Cho was sentenced to one year in prison, and was arrested by the end of December last year.

There could be many examples of the rich and powerful falling from the pedestal, of smugness being wiped out, of the arrogant being humbled, but this incident will take an award from me of being the nuttiest version of it all.