Korean Air cabin crew in 'nut-gate' row says former V-P insulted him, forced him to kneel

The head of the Korean Air cabin crew involved in a 'nut-gate' row with the company chairman's daughter Heather Cho, seen above apologising for the incident before an inquiry, has told state television that she forced him to kneel and apologise to he
The head of the Korean Air cabin crew involved in a 'nut-gate' row with the company chairman's daughter Heather Cho, seen above apologising for the incident before an inquiry, has told state television that she forced him to kneel and apologise to her. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS) - The head of cabin crew who was kicked off a Korean Air flight after a company executive raged over the way she was served macadamia nuts said he was insulted and forced to kneel down to apologise to the executive.

In a case that sparked public outrage and ridicule over her treatment of flight crew, Ms Heather Cho, the daughter of the airline's chairman and head of in-flight service, reprimanded the cabin crew chief and one of his flight attendants who brought nuts to her in a bag, not a dish, and delayed the flight.

"In a situation where she said, 'Make contacts right now to stop the plane. I won't let the plane go', I dared not object to her, the owner's daughter," Mr Park Chang Jin, the chief purser, told state-run TV network KBS late on Friday, ending days of silence.

Mr Park said that Ms Cho swore at him, jabbed the back of his hand with a file case several times, and pointed her finger at him while he kneeled.

The chief steward also added that, after the incident was first reported, he was visited several times at home by the airline’s officials, who tried to persuade him to lie to the authorities by saying that Ms Cho had not sworn and that he had left the plane voluntarily.

Korean Air declined to comment.

The pilot brought the plane back to its gate at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport for the cabin crew chief to be expelled.

Ms Cho is the eldest daughter of the company chairman Cho Yang Ho. Two siblings are also executives at the airline.

The incident that was first reported on Monday has stoked both mirth and anger in South Korea, whose economy is dominated by powerful family-run conglomerates known as chaebol.

Ms Cho has been stripped of all titles at the airline and its affiliates, and faces investigation by the government and prosecutors to determine whether she breached aviation laws.

She bowed and offered a public apology before being questioned at the Transport Ministry in Seoul on Friday.

Speaking to reporters hours after being questioned, Ms Cho declined to respond to the cabin crew chief's account of the incident.

"I have no idea... I have never heard of it," she told reporters, slightly shaking her head.