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Incheon airport CEO refuses to step down despite gov't pressure

Incheon International Airport Corp. President and CEO Koo Bon-hwan speaks during a news conference held near the airport, Wednesday. / Yonhap
Incheon International Airport Corp. President and CEO Koo Bon-hwan speaks during a news conference held near the airport, Wednesday. / Yonhap

By Jun Ji-hye

Incheon International Airport Corp. (IIAC) President and CEO Koo Bon-hwan said the government's push to remove him from office was "unjust," Wednesday, claiming that there is no justifiable reason for his dismissal.

His comments came a day after reports of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport push to dismiss Koo, citing several instances of Koo's misconduct it claims to have found during its inspection.

It is rare for the government to push to dismiss the head of a state-run company during his tenure.

"Earlier this month, a high-level official from the transport ministry asked me to step down voluntarily. I was very embarrassed as the official told me that the ministry would propose a dismissal if I refuse to quit," Koo said during a media conference held near the airport, without identifying who the high-level official was.

"I have no intention to step down voluntarily as there is no reason to do so. There is no justifiable reason to dismiss me, either."

He said he will take legal action if the government approves his dismissal.

Koo, a career-long aviation bureaucrat, was inaugurated to head the IIAC in April last year, becoming the airport operator's eighth CEO. His term is scheduled to end in April 2022.

Koo has been under suspicion that he abused his authority over personnel affairs. He has also been facing accusations of inappropriate use of a company credit card.

The ministry's move, however, was seen by some industry officials as a means to settle controversy over the IIAC's decision to change the status of 1,902 contract and part-time security officers working at the airport to regular workers.

The decision, announced in June, has been drawing fierce criticism from young jobseekers and existing full-time workers who claimed the decision harmed fairness in the hiring process of state-run companies.

On Sept. 9, a conservative civic group composed of former and incumbent university professors filed complaints with the prosecution against Koo, Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee and Labor Minister Lee Jae-kap for alleged breach of trust in relation to this issue.

Because of this, the government is facing suspicion that it is attempting to "cut off the tail" to remove the controversy, because the IIAC's decision was in accordance with President Moon Jae-in's election pledge of "zero irregular jobs" in the public sector.

Meanwhile, Koo has also been criticized for plans to change the IIAC's logo as one of the candidates for the new logo looked remarkably similar to the logos of Air China and Mir Foundation which was used as a fundraising vehicle by influence peddlers close to ousted President Park Geun-hye.



Incheon International Airport Corp. President and CEO Koo Bon-hwan speaks during a news conference held near the airport, Wednesday. / Yonhap
Incheon International Airport Corp. President and CEO Koo Bon-hwan speaks during a news conference held near the airport, Wednesday. / Yonhap

By Jun Ji-hye

Incheon International Airport Corp. (IIAC) President and CEO Koo Bon-hwan said the government's push to remove him from office was "unjust," Wednesday, claiming that there is no justifiable reason for his dismissal.

His comments came a day after reports of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport push to dismiss Koo, citing several instances of Koo's misconduct it claims to have found during its inspection.

It is rare for the government to push to dismiss the head of a state-run company during his tenure.

"Earlier this month, a high-level official from the transport ministry asked me to step down voluntarily. I was very embarrassed as the official told me that the ministry would propose a dismissal if I refuse to quit," Koo said during a media conference held near the airport, without identifying who the high-level official was.

"I have no intention to step down voluntarily as there is no reason to do so. There is no justifiable reason to dismiss me, either."

He said he will take legal action if the government approves his dismissal.

Koo, a career-long aviation bureaucrat, was inaugurated to head the IIAC in April last year, becoming the airport operator's eighth CEO. His term is scheduled to end in April 2022.

Koo has been under suspicion that he abused his authority over personnel affairs. He has also been facing accusations of inappropriate use of a company credit card.

The ministry's move, however, was seen by some industry officials as a means to settle controversy over the IIAC's decision to change the status of 1,902 contract and part-time security officers working at the airport to regular workers.

The decision, announced in June, has been drawing fierce criticism from young jobseekers and existing full-time workers who claimed the decision harmed fairness in the hiring process of state-run companies.

On Sept. 9, a conservative civic group composed of former and incumbent university professors filed complaints with the prosecution against Koo, Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee and Labor Minister Lee Jae-kap for alleged breach of trust in relation to this issue.

Because of this, the government is facing suspicion that it is attempting to "cut off the tail" to remove the controversy, because the IIAC's decision was in accordance with President Moon Jae-in's election pledge of "zero irregular jobs" in the public sector.

Meanwhile, Koo has also been criticized for plans to change the IIAC's logo as one of the candidates for the new logo looked remarkably similar to the logos of Air China and Mir Foundation which was used as a fundraising vehicle by influence peddlers close to ousted President Park Geun-hye.



Jun Ji-hye jjh@koreatimes.co.kr

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