S Korea toughens laws after ‘nut rage’

Former Korean Air (KAL) executive Cho Hyun-Ah is surrounded by journalists after she received a suspended jail sentence and was freed by a Seoul appeals court in Seoul on 22 May 2015, after she had been jailed for a year in February for disrupting a flight in a rage over macadamia nutsImage copyright
AFP/Getty Images

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Heather Cho, also known as Cho Hyun-ah, had thrown a fit when she was served nuts improperly onboard a flight

South Korea has enacted tougher laws against unruly air passengers, after the so-called nut rage scandal which saw a top Korean Air executive jailed

Under the new rules, passengers will pay a higher fine if they disturb the pilot. Transport officials say they revised laws because of public demand.

Heather Cho was convicted last February after ordering a taxiing plane back to the gate to offload a steward who served the nuts the wrong way.

The case attracted global attention.

But in South Korea it reopened a national debate about elitism and the Korean business system, which is dominated by family firms known as chaebols.

Besides being the vice-president at Korean Air at that time, Ms Cho – also known as Cho Hyun-ah – is the daughter of the airline’s chairman.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Ms Cho apologised several times publically after the incident

During the incident she was angered that she was given macadamia nuts which she did not ask for, and was offended that they were served in a bag, not in a bowl.

After confronting flight staff, she ordered the plane which was taxiing at New York’s JFK Airport to turn back and offload the chief steward.

Under the new law, passed by parliamentarians last year, anyone who disturbs the pilot during a flight could face up to five years in prison or a 50 million won ($41,200; £28,900) fine.

Previously the same offence did not have a jail term and only had a 5 million won fine. Crew members are also now compelled to hand over unruly passengers to the police, or risk a 10 million won fine.

“The amended law reflects mounting public demand for enhanced aviation safety and the prevention of unruly behaviour during flight following the Korean Air nut rage incident,” the transport ministry said in a press statement.

Ms Cho was convicted of violating airline safety. She served five months in jail before she was freed in May after an appeals court overturned the ruling saying she did not cause a change in flight path. Another conviction of using violence against flight attendants still stands.

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