Cho Yang-ho, who expanded Korean Air amid scandals, dies at70

NEW YORK — Cho Yang-ho, whose 27 years as president of Korean Air brought substantial growth to the carrier but also a dizzying series of scandals, including two corruption investigations involving him and a notorious tantrum on a flight by one of his daughters, died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 70.

The company announced his death on Twitter. Reuters said he had been undergoing treatment for an unspecified lung disease.

Shareholders had ousted Mr. Cho from the company’s board less than two weeks ago, a highly unusual move in South Korea, where family-controlled conglomerates, called chaebols, like that run by the Chos, have tended to operate with a certain arrogance.


Mr. Cho had been president of Korean Air since 1992, chairman since 1999, and chairman of the overarching entity, Hanjin Group, since 2003.

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He was indicted last year on embezzlement charges. He had also been indicted on a number of charges in 1999 and ultimately convicted of tax evasion.

More recently Mr. Cho gained notoriety through the highhanded actions of his family members. In 2014, his oldest daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, traveling first-class on a plane that was about to depart New York, flew into a rage after a senior flight attendant served her macadamia nuts still in the bag rather than in a dish.

Ms. Cho, who was a Korean Air vice president and its head of in-flight services at the time, ordered the plane to return to the gate at Kennedy International Airport so that the attendant could be removed.

Despite the recurrent scandals, Mr. Cho retained a measure of respect in some circles, not only for transforming the airline into a multimillion-dollar international operation, but also for his leadership in bringing the 2018 Winter Olympics to South Korea. He led the organizing committee that secured the Olympic bid in 2011.


Cho Yang-ho was born March 8, 1949, in Incheon, South Korea, a city bordering Seoul. His father, Cho Choong-hoon, had founded the business empire that became the Hanjin Group in 1945, starting with a single truck.