South Korean people expressed mixed feelings on Monday after prosecutors sought a three-year prison term for former Korea Air Lines executive Heather Cho, who delayed a flight from the U.S. because she was unhappy with the way she was served nuts.
Heather Cho, daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho and the former head of in-flight service, is on trial for breaking aviation laws and conspiring with other company executives to force crew members to lie about the December 5 incident.
After news emerged that prosecutors were seeking a three-year prison sentence, some Seoul residents voiced concern over their leniency.
“She behaved inappropriately as an executive and a vice president, but I feel prosecutors requested a lighter sentence than ordinary people,” said 65-year-old Oh Se-man.
Cho resigned from her posts at the airline, including vice-president, in the face of public anger and ridicule over her behavior, which raised questions about the power of the country's chaebol conglomerates.
“It was not right. She did not set an example to other people as one of leaders of a company. So I think she deserved to get this sentence,” said 22-year-old Cheon You-jin.
But the extent of public anger and media attention over what is often known as the 'nut rage' incident has led some, including Song Jong-seop, 80, to call for an end to the fight.
“I hope they apologize and reunite to finish this public criticism,” said Song.
Cho had demanded the chief steward, Park Chang-jin, be removed from a flight at New York's John F. Kennedy airport in December last year after a first class flight attendant served her macadamia nuts in a bag, not on a dish. The plane, already taxiing, had to return to the gate.
In court on Monday, the chief steward Park accused Cho of treating flight crew like “feudal slaves”.
Park and prosecutors said he was forced to kneel down while Cho poked his palm several times with a folder.
Cho's lawyers previously told the court that she was sorry for her actions, but that they did not merit punishment. They also denied that she used violence.