Ex-Korean Air exec freed over ‘nut rage’

Jailed Heather Cho became focus for anger at ‘chaebol’ industrial groups

Former Korean Air Lines executive Heather Cho (C) is surround by reporters as she is released at a courthouse in Seoul, South Korea on May 22. Photograph: Reuters/Hwang Kwang-Mo/Yonhap

A former vice-president of South Korea's national carrier, Korean Air Lines, who was jailed for a year for obstructing aviation safety during a row over the way macadamia nuts were served in the first-class cabin, has been freed after five months on appeal.

Heather Cho, the eldest of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho's three children, was sentenced in February to one year in prison. The High Court in Seoul upheld Ms Cho's conviction but reduced the sentence to 10 months, which it suspended.

The case had become a focus for public anger at the arrogant behaviour of the top families running the chaebols, the powerful industrial conglomerates that dominate the Korean economy. It's not clear what kind of impact her release after such a short sentence will have on public opinion.

Cho has resigned from all posts at the airline, although her siblings are both executives there.


The court noted her previous lack of a criminal record and the fact that she is the mother of young twins.

“The defendant would have had a chance to reflect sincerely on the mental anguish she caused in the victims during the five months she spent in the darkest place in society while in detention and away from family,” Judge Kim Sang-hwan said in his judgment.