The arrogance charge remains

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The arrogance charge remains

The former Korean Air executive, who became an international laughing stock for making a fully-packed plane go back to the gate at New York’s JFK Airport because she did not like the way her macadamia nuts were served in first class, was freed from jail after a local appeals court acquitted her of changing the flight route. The Seoul High Court sentenced Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, to 10 months in prison suspended for two years, reducing a lower court’s sentence of a one-year jail term. She was released from jail.

Disruption of an aircraft’s route is a serious crime that demands a jail term of one to 10 years. But the court found Cho had no intention of hampering the safe operation of the plane. She was still declared guilty of exercising force that could undermine the safety of the flight, as she obstructed the captain in performance of his duties and forced a crew member off a plane. While freeing Cho, the judge asked her to repent and show compassion and respect to other people. He said he believed Cho was sincere in her promise to try to make up for the pain she caused and wanted to give her a chance to keep her promise.

Cho has been freed, but the disgruntled public cannot easily forget the shocking way Korea’s elite behaves toward people they consider inferior to them. The news of Cho walking free reignited criticism on the Internet. But as the court reminded us, Cho is a member of our society and the mother of twin boys and should be protected from public calumny.

The so-called nut rage incident that took place last December has raised awareness of the importance of compassion and respect. Cho must remember that she was not acquitted of the arrogance she showed to her staff and in front of all the passengers on the flight. Korean Air must restore the national flag-carrier’s image and reputation. The world and the Korean people will be closely watching how it shows sincerity towards its employees. We hope Cho and the company are genuine in their formal bows of apology and contrition.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 23, Page 30

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