Korean Air 'nut rage' victim sues in New York court

The Korean Air chief steward ejected from a flight by senior airline executive Heather Cho (above) has filed a lawsuit demanding compensation for assault and emotional distress.
The Korean Air chief steward ejected from a flight by senior airline executive Heather Cho (above) has filed a lawsuit demanding compensation for assault and emotional distress.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - The Korean Air chief steward ejected from a flight by a senior airline executive in a now infamous "nut rage" incident has filed a lawsuit in New York demanding compensation for assault and emotional distress.

A copy of the lawsuit seen by AFP on Friday claims damages for the abuse which Park Chang Jin says he suffered at the hand of Cho Hyun Ah, the eldest daughter of the chairman of Korean Air.

Cho is named as the sole defendant in the suit that was filed on Wednesday in the Supreme Court of New York.

Cho was vice-president in charge of in-flight service at the time of her Dec 5 "nut rage" meltdown on board a Seoul-bound KAL flight that had just left the gate in New York.

As the plane was taxiing to the runway, Cho, sitting in first class, became enraged when a flight attendant served her some nuts in a bag, rather than on a plate.

She then berated Park for his team's shortcomings and, according to the lawsuit, beat him, causing bleeding, contusions and "severe emotional distress."

"Cho did not stop beating him despite his pleas that she stop," the court document noted.

"Park was treated by a physician and diagnosed with extreme panic disorder as a result of Cho's beating," it said, adding that he would need at least one year of treatment.

Park was forced to leave the plane after Cho ordered the pilot to return to the gate.

His case has already been recognised as one of "industrial injury" by the Korea Workers' Compensation and Welfare Service, a state agency that rules on industrial accident cases.

The flight attendant who served Cho the nuts, Kim Do Hee, has also filed a civil lawsuit in New York, alleging that Cho attacked, threatened and screamed obscenities at her, and then pressured her to cover up the incident by lying to government regulators.

Cho was jailed in South Korea in February for a year for violating aviation safety laws, but was freed in May after the High Court in Seoul handed down a reduced sentence of 10 months, suspended for two years.

Many South Koreans saw Cho's behaviour as emblematic of a generation of spoilt and arrogant offspring of owners of the giant family-run conglomerates, or "chaebols", that dominate the national economy.

The "nut rage" case invited international ridicule and Cho was criticised at home for embarrassing the country and damaging its image.