Examining Public Responses to Transgressions of CEOs on YouTube: Social and Semantic Network Analysis

  • Jin-A Choi (School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University) ;
  • Sejung Park (Division of Global & Interdisciplinary Studies at Pukyong National University)
  • Published : 2024.06.30


In what was labeled the "nut rage" incident, the vice president of Korean Air, Hyun-Ah Cho (Heather Cho), demonstrated behavior that exemplifies corporate transgression and deviation from societal moral standards toward a flight attendant aboard a flight. Such behavior instigated the public to express negative sentiment on various social media platforms. This study investigates word-of-mouth network on YouTube in response to the crisis, patterns of co-commenting activities across selected YouTube videos, as well as public responses to the incident by employing social and semantic network analysis. A total of 512 YouTube videos featuring the crisis from December 8, 2014 through November 11, 2018, and 52,772 public comments to the videos were collected. The central videos in the network successfully attracted the public's attention and engagements. The results suggest that the video network was decentralized, with multiple videos acting as hubs in the network. The public commented on various videos instead of focusing on a few. The contents of influential videos uploaded by popular news organizations revealed not only Cho's behaviors related to the nut rage crisis but also unrelated illegal behaviors and the moral violations committed by the family members of Korean Air. The public attached derogatory remarks to Cho and her family, and the comments also addressed ethical concerns, management issues of the company, and boycott intentions. The results imply that adverse public reaction was related to the long-standing problem caused by family ownership and governance in large Korean corporations. This Korean Air scandal illustrates backlash toward a leadership breakdown by the family business conglomerate prevalent in the Korean society. This study provides insights for effective handling of similar crises.



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