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Nut Rage Scandal: South Korea Enacts Tougher Aviation Laws

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Tougher aviation laws against unruly air passengers have been enacted in South Korea, after the so-called nut rage scandal which saw top Korean Air executive Heather Cho jailed.

Under the new rules, passengers will pay a higher fine if they disturb the pilot. Transport officials say they revised laws because of public demand.

Heather Cho – also known as Cho Hyun-ah – was convicted in February 2015 after ordering a taxiing plane back to offload a steward who served the nuts in a way she deemed inappropriate.


The case attracted global attention.

In South Korea it reopened a national debate about elitism and the Korean business system, which is dominated by family firms known as chaebols.

Besides being the vice-president at Korean Air at that time, Heather Cho is the daughter of the airline’s chairman.

Photo AP

Photo AP

During the incident Heather Cho was angered that she was given macadamia nuts which she did not ask for, and was offended that they were served in a bag, not in a bowl.

After confronting flight staff, Heather Cho ordered the plane which was taxiing at New York’s JFK Airport to turn back and offload the chief steward.

Under the new law, passed by parliamentarians in 2015, anyone who disturbs the pilot during a flight could face up to five years in prison or a 50 million won ($41,200) fine.

Previously the same offence did not have a jail term and only had a 5 million won fine. Crew members are also now compelled to hand over unruly passengers to the police, or risk a 10 million won fine.

“The amended law reflects mounting public demand for enhanced aviation safety and the prevention of unruly behavior during flight following the Korean Air nut rage incident,” the transport ministry said in a press statement.

Heather Cho was convicted of violating airline safety. She served five months in jail before she was freed in May after an appeals court overturned the ruling saying she did not cause a change in flight path. Another conviction of using violence against flight attendants still stands.

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