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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
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Lawsuit Over Korean Air|’Nut Rage’ Incident

QUEENS, N.Y. (CN) - The flight attendant who says a Korean airline "princess" threatened her in a fit of "nut rage" wants a court to award punitive damages.

Korean Air Lines flight attendant Do Hee Kim's lawsuit in Queens County Superior Court comes months after a media feeding frenzy erupted over the Dec. 5, 2014, incident onboard a flight bound for Seoul out of New York's JFK International Airport.

Kim says Heather Hyun-a Cho, daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, was seated in the plane's first-class cabin.

At the time, Cho served as Korean Air's vice president in charge of cabin service.

Kim says "Cho, known as the 'princess' of the so-called 'royal' family that controls Korean Air," became "enraged" when the flight attendant served her macadamia nuts in a bag, "rather than in a porcelain bowl."

As Cho screamed "obscenities at plaintiff Kim, hit, shoved, and threatened her," she demanded that the plane return to the gate so that "Kim could be removed from the aircraft for her perceived transgression," according to the complaint.

Kim says that the head purser was removed instead.

"Upon return to South Korea, plaintiff Kim was pressured to lie to government regulators in order to cover up the incident, and to appear in public with Cho as part of an orchestrated effort to try and rehabilitate Cho's public image," a footnote to the complaint states.

Kim says the incident "sparked international outrage against defendant Cho and was widely cited as a prime example of the corrupt and entitled behavior of the members of the elite South Korean business families."

Represented by Manhattan attorney Andrew Weinstein, Kim seeks punitive damages from Cho and the airline for assault, battery and emotional distress.

A spokesman for Korean Air Lines could not be reached for comment.

After the incident in December, Korean Air Lines issued an apology to the 250 passengers aboard the flight in question, which suffered a 20-minute delay because of the outburst.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a spokesman as saying that in-flight service rules required the flight attendant to first ask passengers if they want nuts, and served them on a plate, not in the bag.

Cho stepped down from her position at the airline after the incident.

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