Plight of the Incheon Technocrats

Aug 14,2001

Six executives have been forced to leave the Incheon International Airport Corporation so far. They were all technocrats. In order not to draw attention to their identities, I'm using their surnames only.

In February 1996, Mr. Park, then the head of the construction office at the airport corporation, left the corporation because of charges raised by civic groups that a tide embankment was shoddily constructed. Although on-site investigations found no problems in the embankment, he was nonetheless relieved of his post.

In May 1999, a national television station gave extensive coverage to allegations that water was leaking into roads built under the airport's runways. At the time, the president of the airport corporation, Kang Dong-suk, strongly denied the charges, but two executives, Mr. Yoo and Mr. Lee, were eventually sacked anyway. The two officials formerly worked in the transportation ministry, and designed and administered the Incheon International Airport construction project.

They were the ones who found the land for the airport construction on Yeongjong island. They left the ministry when the airport construction began, saying that they would like to take part in the rare opportunity of creating such a grand airport.

After Mr. Yoo and Mr. Lee were pushed out, a Mr. Min, then the administrative executive at the electricity and communications department at the airport corporation, also was forced to resign. The reason: after an audit, the Board of Audit and Inspection suspected collusion in a project to build a comprehensive information telecommunications system.

In December 1999, Mr. Jang, then the head of the construction project office, was retired against his will. The reason given was the delayed completion of the control towers and airport administration centers. Mr. Jang still argues that there were other, more sinister reasons behind his enforced departure.

Another technician has been prosecuted on a charge of receiving bribes.

When the controversy surrounding the selection of developers for the land around Incheon International Airport came to light, I asked a senior official at the corporation what he thought had prompted the issue to be raised.

His answer was unexpected. "Maybe now it's Lee Sang-ho's turn," he said. That remark has been echoing in my ear for several days now.

Mr. Lee was recently promoted to chief of Incheon International Airport's development project team, but was in charge of construction management when the airport was being built.

He designed the master plan and supervised the simulation of the construction process, took care of hundreds of cases of outsourcing, tens of thousands of blueprints and the simulation of the luggage sorting system. If he were not exceptionally good at his job, he would have been one of those forced to leave already.

But Mr. Lee completed all those tasks beautifully, and could be considered an expert in making airports. But now, it seems likely we'll be saying goodbye to him, too.

The writer is a staff writer of the Joongang Ilbo.

by Eum Sung-jick

기술자만 당하는 시대

부이사장 2명, 상임이사 2명, 이사대우 2명….

그동안 인천국제공항을 타의로 떠난 고급기술자들이다. 먼저 박모 건설사무소장. 1996년 2월 시민단체가 제기한 방조제 부실공사 의혹이 빌미가 돼 공항을 떠났다. 현장검증을 통해 "이상없다" 고 해명했으나 결국은 직위해제됐다.

99년 5월엔 활주로 밑을 관통하는 지하차도에 물이 새는 부실공사 의혹을 모 TV가 집중 보도했다. 당시 강동석(姜東錫)사장도 "부실공사가 아니다" 며 강력하게 의혹을 부인했지만 이 건으로 부이사장 유모씨, 토목사업본부장 이모씨가 퇴직했다.

둘은 교통부 국장.과장으로 재직하며 신공항 건설계획을 직접 구상.추진했던 사람들. 영종도 공항터도 이들이 발견했고, 공항 건설이 시작되자 "내 생애에 이런 공항을 지어 볼 기회는 다시 없다" 며 스스로 공무원직을 버린 기술자들이었다.

같은 날 민모 전기통신본부장도 퇴직했다. 감사원 감사 결과 종합정보통신시스템 구축사업에 `부정처리 혐의` 가 제기됐다는 게 이유였다. 99년 12월엔 건축사업본부장 장모 이사가 퇴직했다. 관제탑.공항운영센터 등의 완공 지연이 이유지만 본인은 지금도 "다른 이유가 있다" 고 억울해 하고 있다. 아예 "돈을 받았다" 는 이유로 사법처리됐던 기술자도 있다.

공사는 최근 훈장을 받은 기술자까지 `특감 후 중징계 대상` 에 올렸다고도 한다.

이번 공항 주변지역 개발업체 선정 절차 문제가 불거졌을 때 기자는 공사의 한 간부에게 그 이유를 물은 적이 있다. 그의 대답이 희한했다. "이제 이상호(李相虎)이사 차례인가 보죠. " 불쑥 던진 그 말이 벌써 며칠째 귓전을 맴돈다.

李이사의 최근 직책은 개발사업단장이었지만 건설기간 중엔 주로 건설관리본부장이었다. 공항을 짓는 마스터플랜은 물론 건설 공정 시뮬레이션, 수백건의 용역, 수만장의 설계도면, 수화물처리 시뮬레이션 등을 직접 관장해 웬만한 사람이라면 벌써 (타의로)공항을 떠났을 직책에 있던 사람이다.

그 업무들을 훌륭하게 해낸 李이사는 우리나라 최고의 공항 전문가라 해도 토를 달 사람이 없을 정도의 실력자다. 그런데도 이제 그를 공항에서 떠나 보내야 하나.

by 음성직 전문기자

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