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Lessons learned from ‘nut rage’ incident for heirs and heiress

Lessons learned from ‘nut rage’ incident for heirs and heiress

Posted December. 13, 2014 08:42,   


Former Vice President of Korean Air, Cho Hyun-ah, who caused a stir by an incident dubbed "nut rage," said on Thursday she would “apologize herself to cabin crews and the chief flight attendant” on her way to attend an investigation by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation. Without makeup on her face, the former Vice President of Korean Air answered questions of reporters in small voice while her head was lowered. Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho, Cho’s father, also had a press conference on the same day to make an apology to the public and beg for forgiveness. Heiress Cho resigned as Vice President at Korean Air and now plans to resign from executive roles at all affiliates of Hanjin, the group that controls Korean Air.

On Friday, Cho was handed a bag of macadamia nuts, not on a plate, by a flight attendant in the first class of a plane bound for Incheon from New York. Angered by the nut-offering service without asking if she wanted them, Cho forced to return the plane which was already taxing towards the runway to the terminal and ordered the chief flight attendant to deplane. It is obviously a wrong behavior to return a plane with 250 passengers on board to drop off the chief flight attendant. There are claims that Cho talked and acted in an insulting way to the 1st class cabin crews and the flight manager. After the incident made public, Korean Air also has worsened the situation by sticking to excuses and trying to whitewash the incident as Cho is the oldest daughter of Chairman and an heiress.

Unlike the first generation who started a business from scratch, or the second generation who have been watching how hard their parents grew the business, the third and fourth generations of business owners grew up without experiencing hardships from their birth. Although there are many humble and polite third or fourth generations of business owners, some behave arrogantly and impudently based on wrongful sense of entitlement. The ‘nut rage’ incident also revealed chronic malaise in Korean corporate culture, in which wrongdoings of executives from owner families are not corrected or checked properly inside companies. This incident dealt a blow to not only heiress Cho but also Hanjin Group including Korean Air. Image of Korea’s No. 1 carrier has been tainted in and out of Korea and employees got emotionally hurt. There are concerns that "Cho Hyun-ah’s nut scandal" may instigate anti-corporate sentiment.

The nut rage incident was known to the public when a posting titled "Get Off!" was posted on the Korean Air’s internal mobile-based anonymous bulletin board. Owner family’s arrogant behaviors, which could have been hidden in the past, are now revealed to the public thanks to the development of SNS. Conglomerate owners must well educate their children at work and home not to have a sense of entitlement, and allow only selective few with proven management capabilities and personal characters to participate in the management.