New head of Incheon airport faces challenges

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New head of Incheon airport faces challenges

Kim Kyung-wook, a former vice land minister, in a briefing in 2019. Kim is taking office as chief of Incheon International Airport Corporation on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

Kim Kyung-wook, a former vice land minister, in a briefing in 2019. Kim is taking office as chief of Incheon International Airport Corporation on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

 
Kim Kyung-wook, former vice land minister, becomes president of the state-run Incheon International Airport Corporation on Tuesday. 
 
Kim, 55, is replacing Koo Bon-hwan, who was let go in September for neglecting his supervisory duties during typhoons and making false reports to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.  
 
His removal was also linked to the company’s announcement that it was offering standard employment contracts to subcontracted security guards, argue some critics. 
 
Kim’s focus will be reducing the debt that has mounted at the corporation since the pandemic began and to resolve conflict with the company's labor union, which protested his appointment last week.  
 
The union and management have struggled to agree on the corporation’s decision to offer standard employment contracts to more than 1,900 subcontracted security guards. The union argues the decision goes against an agreement to first offer the guards standard employment at airport subsidiaries, and then possibly at the state-run corporation. Security guards themselves are not happy with the state of affairs, as only some are being offered standard employment.  
 
In a statement released last week, the union said it expected “a new president with professional knowledge and moral influence, not a government official who lost an election in the 21st general election” held last April.  
 
The union referred to Kim’s appointment as a parachute appointment, which refers to politically connected bigwigs using their clout to get plum retirement jobs at government corporations, state-run agencies and even in some private sector positions.  
 
“Incheon International Airport Corporation is in a crisis,” Kim told local news outlet News1. “The fate of the airport will be determined based on how [I] resolve the difficulties caused by Covid-19, and that will be my utmost priority.”
 
He added that new competition among international airports will begin once the world recovers from the pandemic. He vowed to turn the risk into an opportunity.  
 
The company reported 450.1 billion won ($403.13 million) in net losses in 2020, according to a preliminary report. Its net profit in the previous year was 865.9 billion won.
 
Kim hinted it would take time to resolve the conflict with the union “as a sufficient level of social consensus needs to be formed.”
 
“[I] will resolve the issue with the union,” Kim said.
 
Kim studied economics at Seoul National University and passed the civil service examination in 1989.  
 
His inauguration ceremony starts at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the corporation headquarters.  

BY JIN MIN-JI   [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]
 
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