[NOTEBOOK]Plight of the Incheon Technocrats

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[NOTEBOOK]Plight of the Incheon Technocrats

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

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