Prosecutors Claim Korean Air Heiress Received Outside Help For Easier Jail Time

D-Bo , Aug. 12, 2015, 10:43 a.m.

The daughter of the Korean Air Lines Co. chairman may have received outside assistance to have an easier time at her detention center, prosecutors said Wednesday. Cho Hyun-ah rose to infamy last year when she stopped a taxiing flight at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport bound for Incheon because her nuts were served in an unopened bag, not on a plate. The case was widely seen among locals as a classic example of unfair power structure that has placed families of large conglomerate owners in South Korea above the law.

The 40-year-old ended up paying the price after a Seoul court found her guilty of in-flight violence, intimidation and business obstruction. She spent about six months at a detention center between December, the month of the incident, and May, when an appellate court acquitted her of changing the planned course of a flight. But prosecutors said she may have received preferential treatment while there because someone had offered to pull strings for her.

The man, identified only as a 51-year-old surnamed Yeom, has been indicted over offering help to Cho via the president of Hanjin Group that operates Korean Air, the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors' Office said. Yeom and the president have been close since Yeom's father and sister died in a Korean Air flight crash in Guam in 1997. Yeom was the chief negotiator for bereaved families.

Prosecutors believe Yeom started an auto maintenance company in March and was awarded contracts to fix more than 300 rental cars for Hanjin Rent-A-Car, apparently in return for helping the Korean Air heiress. Prosecutors, however, haven't found any traces of financial exchange. "We're currently investigating whether Yeom broke the code of the detention center and whether any money has been involved," a prosecutor said, asking not to be identified because of office policy.

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