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Chaebol chiefs on overseas business trips amid parliamentary inspection

Out of 96 chairmen, executives initially called in as witnesses, only four appeared

Oct. 6, 2022 - 16:00 By Hong Yoo
This photo shows HDC Group Chairman Chung Mong-gyu holding a press conference early this year to apologize for two fatal accidents at the builder‘s construction sites in Gwangju. (Yonhap)

A parliamentary inspection of the Land, Infrastructure, and Transport Committee kicked off Thursday to question businesses over their mishaps or irregularities that undermined public safety, but hearing sessions went on without business chiefs in attendance.

The initial list of requested witnesses submitted by the ruling People Power Party and the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea included 96 business executives in total, but only four appeared as witnesses on the day.

Business tycoons who were absent at the hearing included HDC Group Chairman Chung Mong-gyu and Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Won-tae, who cited business trips abroad as excuses for not attending.

Chung was to be questioned over the group's construction arm, which has been criticized over loose safety measures and poor practices. Two fatal accidents occurred at the builder's construction sites in the past two years, leaving 15 dead.

Chairman Chung was on a business trip abroad to promote South Korea’s hosting of the 2023 Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup, the company said.

Lawmakers rather agreed upon calling HDC Hyundai Development Company's CEO and Chief Safety Officer Jung Ik-hee to attend the audit.

Hanjin Group’s chief was also not present at the inspection, as he was participating in a celebratory event for Virgin Atlantic joining the SkyTeam, an alliance of which Korean Air is a member. Hanjin did not send any other executive to attend the session.

Cho was expected to be asked about the group’s progress in getting antitrust approval from foreign regulators for its merger deal with Asiana Airlines, as well as Korean Air’s progress in meeting the conditions the Fair Trade Commission had laid out for its merger approval.

The antitrust watchdog had ordered both Korean Air and Asiana Airlines to give up some of their airport slots and transportation rights in certain regions to prevent a market monopoly after the merger.

Korean Air has said that they have sorted out with the FTC the number of slots and transportation rights they are going give up, and anticipate finalizing the merger by the end of this year.

Virgin Atlantic has announced it would start a new flight route from Incheon to London soon, hinting that the UK is likely to give the green light to Korean Air’s acquisition of its cash-strapped crosstown rival Asiana Airlines when it announces its decision on Nov. 14, it added.

The UK had required Korean Air to submit plans on how to ensure competition by naming the specific air carrier that will take the routes where Korean Air has dominance after the merger.