Flight exec hangs up wingsKorea’s first flight attendent-turned-executive, Lee Taek-geum, retired on Dec. 31, ending her 33-year-long career with Korean Air Co., the country’s flag-carrier.
“Even though I leave, my heart will always stay in the air,” Ms. Lee said.
Ms. Lee continued to fly even after she was promoted to the executive position. Her last round-trip flight took place on Dec. 22, leaving from Incheon to Tokyo and then on to Los Angles.
Returning from this last working journey on Dec. 26, Ms. Lee said, “I spent sleepless nights prior to the last flight. I felt sorry to leave and was close to shedding tears, but I did my best every minute until we arrived at the final destination.”
She has flown 26,214 hours ― equal to spending three years straight in the air or flying around the earth 524 times.
“I was happy to travel to every corner of the world and see all kinds of sites and scenery,” Ms. Lee said. “I was never bored because I took pride in choosing a good career.”
After she studied Spanish at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, she noticed an ad for a job as a flight attendant in a newspaper in 1972. She got the job and never looked back. She set five records for a woman in the aerospace industry, becoming the first female executive in 2001.
Ms. Lee’s achievement, she says, is a result of her devotion to serving her customers. She commented that flight attendants need to be fully conscious of their customers’ needs and aware of what is happening on the flight. Ms. Lee stressed this axiom not only to herself but also to other younger flight attendants.
Because of this commitment to service, the company received no letters of complaint regarding any of the flights that she was the supervisor on.
Ms. Lee is now preparing for a new life ― she has written a book about her 33-year career and is also looking for a related career in the service industry.
Ms. Lee is still single, but said that was because, “I haven’t met a suitable man yet, and it is not because I want to pursue my life as a single woman. I will get married as soon as I find a good match.”
by Kang Kaep-sang
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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