The second daughter of the chairman of Korean Air Lines Co. returned home from an overseas trip on Sunday amid controversy over claims that she hurled water into the face of an advertising firm employee last month.
Police launched a preliminary inquiry into Cho Hyun-min, a senior executive at the country's largest air carrier, on Friday after media reports that she yelled and threw water at a manager of the company's advertising agency during a business meeting in her office in Seoul on March 16.
Cho is the sister of Cho Hyun-ah, who was jailed in 2014 in the so-called nut rage scandal, in which she ordered her flight back to an airport gate in New York because she was upset about the way her nuts were served on the plane.
Cho was reportedly upset because the advertising employee did not properly answer her questions.
"I was foolish. I am sorry," the heiress told reporters after arriving at Incheon International Airport. Cho, however, denied that she threw water at the employee but admitted to pushing him.
She left on the trip on Thursday and was expected to return early next week. But she apparently cut short her trip.
Later on Sunday, Cho sent an email to all Korean Air employees to apologize for the incident.
"I'd like to apologize from the bottom of my heart to those that I've hurt," Cho wrote. "In particular, I'd like to say that I am sorry to all the advertising officials that I've worked with and to every one of our executives and employees at Korean Air. Because I was so caught up in my work, I wasn't able to control my careless words and actions."
Cho said she will take this opportunity to look at herself in the mirror and that she will take all criticism to heart.
Police said they questioned Korean Air staff who witnessed the scene to find out if Cho actually yelled at the victim and whether she really threw water on the victim's face.
"We are questioning people to find out the overall stories surrounding the case, such as how people were sitting there and how the incident broke out," an official from the police said.
Police, however, said they were not able to contact officials from the advertising firm, including the victim.
Investigators plan to determine if Cho should be charged with common assault or with an assault involving hazardous objects. The case involved a glass cup, which can be considered a dangerous object if it was actually thrown at the victim.
If Cho did not throw the cup but only threw water on the victim, she will be charged with common assault. Police, however, will not carry out the investigation if the victim does not wish for Cho to be punished under South Korean law.
Cho will also not be charged with assault if the cup just fell on the floor and she did not throw water at the victim as Korean Air explained.
In the email to Korean Air staff, Cho said she will not "evade responsibility" because "this case is entirely my fault."
Cho has also hired an attorney to handle the case. Im Sang-hyuk of the Seoul-based law firm Shin & Kim said he has already met with Cho to discuss the situation and advised her on the email.
"Even though she had already apologized, Cho said she wanted to write another sincere apology," Im said. "She maintains that she will take legal responsibility if she has to."
As to whether Cho threw a glass or paper cup, or whether water was directed at the alleged victim, Im said, "Since the case is under investigation, it's inappropriate to comment on that." (Yonhap)
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