SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- The daughter of Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho said Tuesday that she will resign from her post as vice president after her decision to have a chief purser removed from a plane for failing to properly perform his duties triggered public criticism.
The company said the chairman, who returned earlier in the day from a trip to France, held a meeting with top executives at Incheon International Airport and accepted his daughter's resignation as chief of flight services.
South Korea's largest full-service airline also said that Cho Hyun-ah sincerely apologized to the country and the general public for unintentionally causing a social uproar and hoped for forgiveness from all those that may been hurt by her actions.
"I will take full responsibility for the incident and step down from my post," Korean Air said, citing the chairman's daughter.
The move comes hours after the head of the airline told reporters that he would look into the incident involving his 40-year-old eldest daughter.
"Vice president Cho was acting as an executive when the incident occurred. Nevertheless, I sincerely apologize for causing any inconvenience to the passengers," the 65-year-old chairman had said.
He promised to check into the matter fully and take all necessary measures without elaborating on details.
Cho Hyun-ah, also known by her English name, Heather, whipped up a stormy controversy by ordering the chief purser of a Korean Air jet, with some 250 passengers aboard, to leave the plane after a spat over how nuts were served. The flight was on its way to Seoul from New York last Friday.
The daughter reportedly was angered when a flight attendant served her an unopened package of macadamia nuts instead of on a plate. She then took issue with the purser over his lack of knowledge over the service manual.
The incident, locally named "nut return," has generated heavy criticism. The plane had already pushed back from the gate and was on the taxiway when Cho ordered it to turn back to disembark the chief purser. The return caused a flight delay.
Returning to the gate can be carried out by the captain in case of an emergency or in the event of a mechanical failure, but there have been no reported cases of a plane coming back to disembark a crew member who was criticized for failure to do their duties properly.
Korean Air released a formal statement late Monday after the event became big news, apologizing for the incident while stressing that there was no problem with the safety of the plane.
"We are sorry about the inconvenience to passengers," Korean Air said. The company said it was excessive action to have a crew member removed from a plane. The company, however, claimed it was the plane's captain who ordered the purser to leave after Cho raised the issue over the service quality and lack of crew oversight. It said the purser was in the wrong by not knowing the proper procedures.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said it will look into the incident and see whether any rules were broken. Causing a commotion on a plane is considered a punishable act under South Korean air traffic safety law.
"Even if she is the vice president of the airline, she was one of the passengers," a ministry official said.
The controversy, meanwhile, stirred debate in South Korea, with many criticizing Cho Hyun-ah and the way Korean Air handled the problem.
Online comments said she should have apologized personally, with others saying that Korean Air should not have placed the blame on the purser.
The People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a progressive civic group, said it will report Cho for breaking the law, which could result in an investigation by the prosecutors' office.
Korean Air's pilot union issued a statement accusing the company of shifting the blame to cover for Cho. "It is best for the management to accept responsibility and make a formal apology," it said.