Probing into suspicious recruitments at Eastar

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Probing into suspicious recruitments at Eastar

More than 100 people have been implicated in illegal hiring at budget carrier Eastar Jet. That would mean 20 percent of the 500 recruits from late 2015 to early 2019 may have been hired despite being qualified. That is unfair to hundreds of young Koreans who have been striving to find jobs.

The Jeonju District Prosecutors’ Office last week filed for arrest warrants for former Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker Lee Sang-jik, founder of the airline, and former Eastar CEO Choi Jong-gu on charges of obstruction of business. The two men are suspected of ordering the HR team and interviewers to favor certain candidates in recruiting flight crew and pilots since October 2015. Prosecutors have found evidence of such a practice from e-mail records of a HR manager from 2017 to 2018 in a raid on the airline’s headquarters last August.

During a legislative hearing earlier this month, People Power Party (PPP) Rep. Yoon Chang-hyun exposed names of illegal hires at Eastar Jet in 2014. He claimed that the candidates had been recommended by former prime minister Han Myeong-sook and two current DP lawmakers Lee Won-wook and Yang Ki-dae.

The prosecution also discovered circumstantial evidence of illegal hires in 2014 to 2015 at the recommendation of former lawmaker Lee and other political figures. Prosecutors did not include the charges as the seven-year statute of limitations has passed.

After founding the budget airline in 2007, Lee had been the chair until 2012. Illegal hiring traditions could have lasted longer. Lee is also under prosecutorial questioning for favoritism related to former president Moon Jae-in’s ex-son-in-law.

Lee was sentenced to six years in the first trial last January for embezzling corporate funds of 50 billion won ($35 million). He was released on parole in June and is being tried at the second court. He lost his representative seat after the Supreme Court upheld his crime of violating the public office election law in May. In August, he claimed that the airline had reserved 30 percent of the hiring quota for recruitment from outside the capital region as the government instructed and received recommendations in the process. He denied any favors in return. He would likely argue with the same reasoning in a court hearing due later this week.

Lee had to return to the prosecution after a group of students preparing for the state bar exam filed charges against him in April last year for breach of trust. The Gangseo police office in Seoul dismissed the case twice. But the case was reopened by the Jeonju District Prosecutors’ Office upon a request from the complainants. The prosecution must investigate thoroughly on behalf of jobseekers. The court must also deliver a fair judgment.
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