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Korean Air chairman dies in Los Angeles

Korean Air chairman dies in Los Angeles

Korean Air chairman and chief executive Yang Ho Cho has died at the age of 70.

A statement from the carrier confirmed he passed away yesterday in a Los Angeles hospital.

No details of the cause of death were given.

Cho had recently been indicted on multiple charges, including embezzlement and tax evasion – all of which he denied.

His death comes less than two weeks after a shareholder vote to remove him from the board of Korean Air over a series of scandals surrounding the ruling family.

Most infamously, his eldest daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, was arrested following the ‘nut gate’ incident at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York in 2014.

The former head of cabin service at the airline confronted a member of staff after criticising the way peanuts were presented to her on board.

Following the recent vote, Cho had remained chairman, which is a non-board role.

He had expressed his intent to continue participating in management.


Life in aviation

Considered by many to be an air transport pioneer, he was also head of the Hanjin Group.

He was a founder of the SkyTeam international airline alliance and led the bid committee that brought the 2018 Winter Olympics to Korea. 

Yang also recently completed development of the Wilshire Grand complex in downtown Los Angeles, the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

He served on the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association; the board of trustees of his alma mater, University of Southern California; and received honorary doctorate degrees from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida and the Ukraine National Aviation University.

Under his guidance, Korean Air became a global powerhouse flying to 124 cities and 44 countries, emerging as America’s largest Asian airline with 15 North American gateways.

He recently negotiated a joint venture with Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, that created the industry’s most comprehensive transpacific network.

The airlines are scheduled to launch a new non-stop route between Boston and Seoul on April 12th.

Yang was in the airline industry all his life, as his father, Choong-Hoon Cho, had acquired and privatised Korean Air 50 years ago.

The younger man was named the airline’s chairman and chief executive in 1999, having served as president and chief executive for four years earlier.

He is survived by his wife, Myung-hee Lee, son Walter, daughters Heather and Emily and five grandsons.