Remember the very first episode of Netflix’s Crash Landing On You where Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin)’s father taps her as his successor, leaving her power-hungry brothers enraged? Well, it turns out that art does imitate life as there’s a chaebol (family dynasty) in South Korea experiencing similar troubles.
Hanjin Group, the conglomerate that owns Korean Air, has been making headlines for its ongoing sibling rivalry between heiress Heather Cho and current CEO Walter Cho. The feud between the two started when Walter inherited the role of big boss at their family company, after their father, tycoon Cho Yang-ho passed away in April 2019.
But it turned out that Heather wasn’t all too pleased with the way her brother was running things.
In December 2019, she released a statement that “current management situation is a serious crisis and it cannot be improved by the current management,” obviously referencing her in-command CEO brother.
She was also able to rally company stakeholders, KCGI and Bando, and formed an alliance in an effort to replace Walter with an “established executive.” She recently made headlines when she proposed to KCGI, the biggest shareholder in the company, to oust her brother, and if it does succeed, it would be the first time in history for a chaebol to “shake off” its founding family from the top management. According to Bloomberg, it’s the first time for a woman to disrupt a company as large as this one.
Heather Cho is infamously known for her ‘nut rage’ incident, which took place at the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City way back in 2014. She boarded the aircraft (Korean Air, of course) and rebuked the flight attendant for serving her macadamia nuts in its original packaging. She wanted it on a plate. This led to a spat between her and cabin crew chief, whom she ordered to turn the plane around. The controversy led to her being sentenced to 10 months in prison, of which she only served five.
Nut rage incident and conspiracy aside, “Heather Cho [is] seen as a role model, although she had that unfortunate incident,” said an associate researcher at the Korea Women’s Development Institute in Seoul.
According to Bloomberg, the Cornell University graduate with an MBA from the University of Southern California was able to innovate a myriad of things in Korean Air, aside from overseeing the business itself. (She was praised for her redesign of cabin crew uniforms!) Given her capabilities, it’s no wonder that she was known as the “more capable” one of the three siblings—just like CLOY's beloved heiress Yoon Se-ri.