14 indicted in KTX forgery scandal

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14 indicted in KTX forgery scandal

The Gwangju District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday indicted two employees of Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) and 12 parts suppliers for their involvement in an alleged forgery case in which they colluded to fabricate information about the railway parts supplied to KTX bullet trains.

Components supplied under forged documents include relays (an electrically operated switch), check valves and valve panels, totaling 17,521 parts of 29 different types.

Although most of the parts are used in the brake system, the prosecutors played down the safety risks.

“A KTX bullet train uses a total of 2 million parts of 35,000 types. This indicates that the parts in question would not pose a serious risk,” said a source in the prosecutors’ office who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“There are multiple brake systems in one train, so one dysfunctional brake system won’t lead to operational disruption.”

The allegation, however, raises recurring safety concerns that have haunted the state-run railway operator, following a spate of technical glitches and collisions over the past few years.

Seven of the indicted suppliers allegedly tampered with import declaration documents so that Korean-made parts looked like imported products, while three are accused of mislabeling 8,246 used parts as new.

Experts said that the old metal components, which are vulnerable to corrosion, can seriously harm the operation of bullet trains.

They added that the frequent replacement of rubber parts is important to maintain elasticity, and failures to do so might spell potential disaster.

Those unlawful practices apparently pocketed the indicted suppliers some 300 million won ($281,100), according to the prosecution.

The other two suppliers allegedly set up an offshore shell company to dodge tax burdens and hide secretive funds. They are suspected of embezzling 1.9 billion won.

One of the two indicted Korail employees allegedly took bribes of 20 million won from the president of a parts supply company in exchange for favorable treatment and the cover-up of forgeries from 2006 to 2011.

The other employee is suspected of receiving 11 million won from a parts supplier in return for preferential treatment from 2010 through 2011.

The two employees and seven suppliers were indicted on charges with detention, while the prosecution indicted the remaining five suppliers without detention.

“We ordered the Korail to check more KTX trains to see if there are more cases,” said Chief Prosecutor Shin Eung-seok. “We also asked them to sift through imports documents and other records detailing manufacturing information.”

Korail plans to invite French railway experts to examine their bullet trains starting in November.

Back in September, three passenger trains operated by the Korail collided near Daegu Station as a result of bad signaling.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@oongang.co.kr]
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