Woman wins top spot in Gimpo traffic control tower

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Woman wins top spot in Gimpo traffic control tower

For the first time in Korea, a woman has been appointed as an air traffic control tower chief, overseeing the control of all aircraft movements near an airport. Earlier this month, Jeong Hye-in, 37, was promoted to the head position of Gimpo International Airport’s control tower.
Women account for about 20 percent of the 437 air traffic controllers working at 14 civilian airports in Korea, or 87 controllers.
The control tower in Gimpo International Airport manages the takeoffs and landings of about 300 aircraft per day. Nineteen air traffic controllers work in the airport’s control tower.
After graduating from Hankuk Aviation University, Ms. Jeong joined the Seoul Regional Aviation Administration in 1992. Since then, she has worked at Gimpo’s control tower.
At the airport’s busiest, she said, she managed as many as 700 airplanes takeoffs and landings a day.
“When I was in middle school, I watched a film about airplanes. The air traffic controller in the film looked amazing, and I made up my mind to become an air traffic controller,” Ms. Jeong said.
However, when she started working, there were few females doing the job and it was almost a “forbidden land” for women, she said. “In the beginning, there were no female air traffic controllers from whom I could seek help. I had a hard time adjusting.”
Ms. Jeong has a good reputation among her peers. “Ms. Jeong pays attention to detail and she is able to do the job very smoothly,” said Park Gwang-sun, a control tower communications official.
Ms. Jeong is married with two children and her husband is also a government employee. She said working night shifts was especially hard for her because she was unhappy she was not able to be with her children. In her new position, she will work only during the day.
“I always feel tense because I am responsible for air traffic, especially when aircrafts are taking off and landing, which is the most dangerous moment in aviation,” Ms. Jeong said. “But I take pride in being at the forefront of making sure of aviation safety.”

by Kang Kap-saeng
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