SEJONG, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will impose tougher punishments on disruptive air passengers as part of its efforts to boost aviation safety and curb air rage incidents, the transportation ministry said Monday.
The revised aviation law, effective Tuesday, slaps a five year-prison term or a fine of 50 million won (US$41,000) on those who threaten the pilot during flight, up from a fine of 5 million won, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
The crew members must hand over violators to the police after landing, or they will be slapped with 10 million won in fines.
Unruly passenger behavior has surged in recent years, with the number doubling to 354 cases in 2014 from 203 in 2013. In 2015, 369 disruptive in-flight cases were reported during the January-October period.
The ministry said air rage threatens the safety of aviation, as they are coupled with alcohol and lead to violence and sexual harassment.
"The law revision is aimed at strengthening punishments against in-flight misconduct following the Korean Air case," said the ministry. "It will also contribute to heightening aviation anti-terrorism efforts."
The so-called "nut rage" incident is one of the biggest aviation scandals in South Korea last year, involving Cho Hyun-ah, the heiress of Korean Air Lines Co., South Korea's No. 1 air carrier, that angered the entire nation.
She had complained of incorrect service manners and dismissed a flight attendant, creating a delay of some 20 minutes for the flight heading to Seoul from New York with 250 people on board.
Following Cho's case, pop singer Kim Jang-hoon was investigated for smoking aboard a home-bound plane, while Korean-American singer Bobby Kim was fined for sexually harassing a cabin crew member under the influence of alcohol.