Time to repent and changePandora’s Box has been opened to shed light on outrageous and appalling misdemeanors of the Cho family who owns flag carrier Korean Air. The shaming campaign not only further exposed Cho Hyun-min in office tantrums in addition to her habitual outbursts that led to her throwing of a cup of water at an ad agency executive, but also spilled over to her mother, who heads Hanjin’s nonprofit Ilwoo Foundation.
A video of the owner’s wife being enraged at workers at a construction site went viral. Her drivers and housekeepers rushed to come forward about their ordeals with her. All their accounts paint a picture of a bizarre and horrific family who must have considered themselves royalty. Over 1,000 employees had one or more episodes to share in a chatroom devoted to spilling the beans on the Cho family. It is a wonder how they could have survived all these years under them.
The Hanjin debacle is no longer a problem involving a certain company. It has become a synonym for public rage against overbearing chaebol families and international humiliation that has impaired the name of the Korean airliner. Korean Air and its parent group have invited scrutiny from the Customs Service, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Fair Trade Commission. Individual shareholders are joining up for a collective action to remove the management.
Despite the growing risk to the entire corporate entity, the owner family and conglomerate are dealing poorly with damage control. Chairman Cho Yang-ho issued a cut-and-dried apology for his daughter’s misconduct that gained little sympathy from the public as well as his employees. He said he was removing his youngest daughter Cho Hyun-min as well as her older sister Cho Hyun-ah from management posts. But his words did not come across as sincere as his eldest daughter Cho Hyun-ah, infamous for the “nut rage,” returned to management. She would have stayed on if her younger sister had not caused trouble.
If Hanjin does not act decisively to correct itself soon, the damage could build up to public distrust of the entire business community that largely hinges on family-run chaebol names. Long gone are the days when a corporate owner can get away with serious flaws and excesses. If the Cho family does not repent and change, the price could be heavy.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 26, Page 34