Hyundai whistleblower Kim Gwang-ho gets $24 million by NHTSA

by SpeedLux
Kim Gwang-ho

South Korean engineer Kim Gwang-ho was awarded $24 million by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as his tip-off about safety lapses at Hyundai Motor led to an agreement last year by the automaker and its affiliate, Kia, to pay a record civil penalty of $210 million concerning recalls involving almost 1.7 million vehicles.

Now, at the end of a five-year ordeal, the award by NHTSA has encouraged Kim to set up a foundation to promote responsible corporate culture.

The 59-year-old Kim had worked with Hyundai for 26 years.

In 2016, he reported Hyundai safety lapses to US and South Korean regulators, turning more than 250 pages of internal documents on dozens of alleged issues, including an engine fault.

Following this, the automaker had to recall millions of vehicles in the US, Canada, and South Korea over engine defects, at a cost of $322.4 million.

“Safety is Hyundai’s number one priority. We encourage openness and transparency in all our safety-related operations,” the automaker maintained.

Kim was fired in November 2016 by the automaker for allegedly leaking trade secrets but later reinstated by the automaker after a South Korean government ruling to protect whistleblowers.

Hyundai then filed a criminal complaint against him, but it was dropped after Kim quit the automaker in 2017.

“I will be the first and last whistleblower in South Korea’s automobile market. There are just a lot of things to lose,” Kim Gwang-ho said in 2017.

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