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March 28, 2019

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‘Nut rage’ helps topple Korean Air chief

The head of South Korea’s flag carrier, Korean Air — whose family has been embroiled in multiple scandals including one involving a “nut rage” tantrum — lost his board seat after shareholders voted against extending his term as director, the airline said yesterday.

Cho Yang-ho, who is on trial for corruption, failed to secure a required two-thirds majority, becoming the first controlling shareholder of a South Korean conglomerate to be forced off the board.

The super-wealthy owners of chaebols — the sprawling conglomerates that dominate the world’s 11th-largest economy — are no strangers to controversy, but a string of high-profile scandals have vaulted the Cho family to notoriety in South Korea, even sparking protests by their employees.

The 70-year-old tycoon is the chairman of the Hanjin Group, which used to own the now-bankrupt Hanjin Shipping.

Cho controls around 30 percent of Korean Air through its parent company Hanjin Kal.

But the National Pension Service, the airline’s second-biggest shareholder, said on Tuesday it will oppose Cho’s reelection, citing his record of “undermining corporate value and infringing upon shareholder rights.”

“It is correct that he has lost his seat as the director of the board,” a Korean Air spokeswoman said.

His troubles began after Cho’s eldest daughter, Heather Cho, made headlines in 2014 when she lost her temper over the way she was served nuts in first class and ordered the Korean Air plane to return to its gate at a New York airport in what became known as the “nut rage” incident.

The vote had put “slight brakes” on Cho’s management of the airliner, she said, but stressed that he still had control over the company.


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