Belligerent passenger ignores summons

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Belligerent passenger ignores summons

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The violent intoxicated passenger who attacked passengers and crew members on a Korean Air flight from Hanoi to Seoul is evading police summons, and there is brewing skepticism that he may get away with only a slap on the wrist.

The passenger, a 34-year-old Korean man surnamed Yim who was seated in prestige class (business class), struck another passenger and attacked cabin crew who tried to restrain him.

Immediately after arrival in Korea, Yim was taken into custody by Incheon International Airport Police but was released late Tuesday because he was too drunk to respond to questions, and police said they would summon him when he was sober.

Police notified Yim to appear for questioning on Thursday but Yim said he would make a decision to appear after consulting with his lawyer. A police official said they notified Yim that “because public sentiment is not good, appear for investigation today [Thursday],” or by 1 p.m. on Friday at the latest.

“After appointing a lawyer and discussing things with him,” Yim replied, “then I will appear for questioning.”

Yim was said to have boarded the plane already intoxicated and consumed two and a half glasses of whisky inflight. He works for his father’s trading company and was returning from a business trip to Vietnam.

Police said Yim kept trying to make conversation with a 56-year-old passenger next to him, who tried to ignore him. Yim eventually got angry and struck the passenger.

American Grammy-winning pop singer Richard Marx and his wife Daisy Fuentes, a former MTV VJ, were also aboard the flight, sitting in the row beside Yim in business class.

Marx stepped in to help subdue Yim and the couple took photos and videos of the fiasco and shared it over social media, garnering international attention.

The process of binding Yim with a rope, in accordance with airline protocol, took an estimated hour.

A three-minute video of the scene that has been circulating on the internet shows Yim resisting being tied down by the flight attendants, shouting profanities and spitting in the face of cabin crew.

In addition to this recording, police are in the process of reviewing three other videos clips and said they will also look into whether Yim was on drugs.

But police said when they handed over custody of Yim after he was restrained by cabin crew, they did not observe any needle marks on his arms.

“In order to conduct a urine test, we would need the consent of the person in question,” a police official said.

There has been criticism over social media that Yim is another example of someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth, benefitting from his father’s wealth and seemingly above the law.

“The victims have submitted their medical reports,” the police official said, “and after investigating Yim as a suspect, we will review whether to issue an arrest warrant for him.”

Charges of assault can be punished by up to two years and fined up to 5 million won ($4,200). But charges of bodily harm can result in up to seven years in prison and a fine of 10 million won.

Between 2012 and June, there were 1,506 reported cases of verbal and physical assault, harassment, smoking and other misdemeanors aboard aircraft, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The number has steadily been increasing over the past four years, with 191 cases in 2012, 203 in 2013 and 354 in 2014.

There was a 30 percent increase in misdemeanors on aircraft in 2015, bringing the number to 460 cases. And through June there were 298 cases. Last year, the most common form of misconduct was smoking inflight, with 381 reported cases.

Fifteen were cases of sexual harassment, 42 were instances of rowdiness, nine were cases of disorderly behavior resulting from drinking and six included threatening behavior and assault.

Punishment has been light thus far. Incheon International Airport Police, for example, issued an arrest warrant for only one person for inflight misconduct in September 2014. Under Korean law, one can face up to five years in prison for obstruction of the duties of flight crew and violating aircraft safety laws.

But most people get away with a fine of less than 5 million won.

Last year, singer Bobby Kim was slapped with a 4 million won fine under Korean law for harassing a female flight attendant inflight.

Kim, who said he had consumed six glasses of liquor, tried to embrace the flight attendant on a flight bound to San Francisco from Incheon.

BY SARAH KIM, CHOI MO-RAN [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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