KR accused of granting favors to parts supplier

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KR accused of granting favors to parts supplier

The Korea Rail Network Authority (KR) has been accused of granting favors to a corporation that has imported components that were used on the year-and-a half-old Shinbundang line in Gyeonggi, where about 400 broken rail coupler components have been found so far.

In the Land Infrastructure and Transport Committee’s reporting session over its implemented projects, Shim Jae-chul, a supreme councilor of the ruling Saenuri Party, said, “There is speculation that the Rail Authority has granted favors to corporations that have imported components, including the German tension clamps, many of which were found broken on the Shinbundang line.”

Shim added that those corporations benefited to the tune of nearly 460 billion won ($412.09 million).

On Monday, the JoongAng Ilbo exclusively reported that about 400 broken clamps, which are core components to prevent trains from derailing, were broken between April last year to this March on the Shinbundang subway line, connecting Gangnam Station of southern Seoul and Jeongja Station of Bundang, Gyeonggi.

Safety experts from the Korea Railroad Corporation, or Korail, stated it as “a serious defect that the operator should consider stopping operation of the line until they find the exact cause of the breakage.”

According to Shim, the Rail Authority has also decided to use the German components for several railroad construction projects nationwide.

Shim said that there is a British company that produces the same component, but was somehow disregarded, resulting in large revenue for the Korean company that imported the German components.

Shim said that the German components were supplied to six railroad construction sites, including the Honam Railroad and a railroad connecting Jinju, South Gyeongsang, and Gwangyang, South Jeolla, after they changed the design of some sections. The Rail Authority currently is trying to change the design of five other railroad construction sites, including the line connecting Wonju and Gangneung, Gangwon.

“In order to win antitrust clearance, at least two different brands must be used in such national projects, but the Rail Authority only used one particular brand,” Shim said. “They also even sent an official written request to construction material suppliers to disregard some particular brands.”

According to an official document sent by the Rail Authority to a construction material supplier, which the JoongAng Ilbo has obtained, it clearly asked them to disregard the British brand.

“We disregarded the British component as it didn’t qualify the standard of material quality that the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) has set,” Kim Kwang-jae, president of the Rail Authority, explained in the reporting session. “It’s not true that we granted favors to one particular company.”

But Shim argued, “The BAI’s inspection report, however, never stated to disregard one particular brand. There is speculation that the person who holds the patent of the German component participated in the inspection.”

While the Transport Committee was trying to verify the feasibility of the contracts made between the supplier and the Railroad Authority, a precision safety diagnosis on the Shinbundang line was carried out over three days by the inspection team dispatched from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.


By Ko Sung-pyo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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