Cho Hyun-ah’s conduct made her a lightning rod for South Koreans who feel that leaders of the country’s family-run business conglomerates, or chaebol, which dominate the economy, act as if they are above the law. Chaebol families have been repeatedly entangled in corruption scandals and sibling feuds.
In the latest incident, Cho Hyun-min, who now oversees marketing at the airline, was accused in news reports of throwing a cup of water at an executive for an advertising company during a meeting last month. The incident was cited as an example of what South Koreans call “gapjil” — the abuse of underlings and subcontractors by executives who behave like feudal lords.
On Friday, Korean Air officials declined to comment on the police investigation. But they said Ms. Cho had raised her voice after becoming displeased with answers she got from the advertising executive, and that she threw water on the floor, not at the man’s face.
Korean Air also released a copy of a text message it said Ms. Cho sent to the executive, apologizing for her behavior. The executive accepted her apology in a text message, vowing to work harder to produce a better advertising campaign for Korean Air, according to the company.
Newsletter Sign Up
Thank you for subscribing.
An error has occurred. Please try again later.
You are already subscribed to this email.
“I apologize with my head down for my foolish and reckless behavior,” Ms. Cho wrote on her Facebook page on Thursday, after South Korean news media began reporting the episode.
The police said their investigation was preliminary and that they would decide later whether the case merited an full-fledged investigation and criminal charges.
Over the years, a handful of chaebol families have developed reputations for running their corporate empires like the military dictators who set the stage for their success in the decades after the Korean War.
South Koreans covet jobs at chaebol companies, which are among the most lucrative in the country. But there is also deep resentment of the families who run the conglomerates, especially the children of the founding tycoons, who are widely considered greedy and arrogant.
“What did I do wrong?” Cho Hyun-ah asked a fellow executive when the “nut rage” incident became an issue, according to prosecutors.
Ms. Cho later apologized repeatedly for her misconduct, and her father was forced to fire her. She recently made a comeback, however, landing a management post at a Korean Air-owned hotel business.
South Korea often brims with schadenfreude when a chaebol scion is publicly humiliated. This week, some visitors to the website of President Moon Jae-in’s office demanded that Korean Air be barred from using “Korean” in its name.