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‘Nut rage’ heiress feels left out of Hanjin KAL

Dec 24,2019
Former Korean Air Vice President Cho Hyun-ah on Monday accused her younger brother Cho Won-tae, chairman of Hanjin Group, of ignoring their late father’s dying injunction to let her have more power.

Hyun-ah, the eldest of the three Cho siblings who gained international notoriety in 2014 for forcing a plane back to a gate at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport when she wasn’t served macadamia nuts on a plate, claimed through a legal representative that father Cho Yang-ho, a former Hanjin Group chairman who died in April, dictated the entire family to work in harmony to manage the conglomerate.

The former chairman, who passed away from a chronic illness at 70, did not leave a will.

Hyun-ah said she wants to jointly manage Hanjin Group as an heiress and shareholder, but her brother hasn’t been cooperative.

Four members of the family inherited Cho Yang-ho’s 17.7 percent stake in the group’s holding unit, Hanjin KAL, in a 1.5 to one to one to one ratio. His wife Lee Myung-hee, who previously did not hold any shares, inherited a 5.27 percent share. Won-tae increased his shares from 2.32 percent to 6.46 percent. Hyun-ah increased her share from 2.29 percent to 6.43 percent while Cho Hyun-min, the youngest of the three, increased her share from 2.27 to 6.42 percent.

“The former chairman said the family should cooperate to jointly manage Hanjin Group in harmony,” said Cho Hyun-ah in a statement released through her attorney. She added she has been sincerely cooperating with family to obey their late father’s words, unlike her younger brother who has been “insincere” and “delaying” the joint management of the group.

Cho Won-tae is chairman of Hanjin Group, Hanjin KAL and Korean Air.

Hyun-ah argued that Won-tae’s arbitrary management style led him to be named chairman before she agreed to it. She also argued that the matter of her return to the group’s management has been reported as if it had been agreed upon - but there was actually no consensus.

Hyun-ah currently doesn’t hold any managerial positions in the conglomerate. She returned as president of KAL Hotel Network in March 2018, but was forced to step down less than a month later due to a public uproar.

“Despite repeated requests, important management matters have been decided and announced without any prior discussions,” read the statement. Hyun-ah said she will work with shareholders “to actively discover ways to develop Hanjin Group in accordance with the words of the former Hanjin Group chairman.”

On the same day, Hanjin Group apologized for any controversy that followed Hyun-ah’s statement. “The company has to be managed in accordance with corporate laws and follow procedures,” said Korean Air in a statement.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]