Yang Ho Cho, 70, Chairman and CEO of Korean Air and the Hanjin Group, died peacefully April 7 in a Los Angeles hospital after a brief illness. He was considered to be an Air transport pioneer.
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Mr. Cho’s reach extended far beyond Asia. He was a founder of the Skyteam international airline alliance and led the bid committee that took the 2018 Winter Olympics to Korea. He recently completed development of the iconic 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 (IATA); the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, University of Southern California; and has received honorary doctorate degrees from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (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 12.
Mr. Cho was in the airline industry all his life, as his father, Choong-Hoon Cho, had acquired and privatized Korean Air 50 years ago. The younger Cho was named the airline’s Chairman and CEO in 1999 having served as President and CEO four years earlier. Mr. Cho began working for Korean Air as a manager in the Americas Regional Headquarters in Los Angeles in 1974 after graduating from the University of Southern California.
Three weeks ago Korean Air investors removed him from the board in a victory for shareholder activism.
Mr. Cho’s leadership has been widely recognized over the years. He was awarded the title of `Grand Officier’ in France’s Légion d’Honneur, ‘Polaris’ in Mongolia and also the `Mugunghwa Medal’ in Korea – all of which are the highest order of civil merit awarded in these countries.
In addition to his corporate responsibilities, Mr. Cho was vice chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries, co-chairman of the Korea-U.S. Business Council, and served as the co-president of l’Année France-Corée 2015-2016’, celebrating 130 years of diplomatic relations between Korea and France.
Mr. Cho is survived by his wife, Myung-hee Lee, son Walter, daughters Heather and Emily and five grandsons. Services are pending in South Korea.