Kim Gwang-ho is taking on South Korea’s chaebol culture

by SpeedLux
Kim Gwang-ho

An engineer from South Korea, Kim Gwang-ho flew 7,000 miles to Washington in 2016 to do something he never ever dreamed he would: he reported supposed safety lapses at Hyundai Motor – his company of 26 years – to U.S. regulators.

Mentioning an internal report from Hyundai’s quality strategy group to management, Kim informed the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the business was not taking enough action to resolve an engine fault that increased the risk of accidents.

Hyundai rejects the accusations. The company promotes transparency in all safety-related operations, and its decisions on recalls abide by both international regulators and stringent internal processes, Hyundai informed Reuters through email.

Reuters was not able to examine the internal report mentioned by Kim due to a court injunction submitted by Hyundai.

In a culture which values business loyalty, Kim was moving against the tide when he handed the NHTSA 250 pages of internal files on the supposed problem and nine other faults.

South Korea has been buffeted by business scandals, many within its family-run corporations or chaebol, however has seen few whistleblowers. A high percentage are sacked or ostracized, regardless of legislation to protect them, as per advocacy groups.

Kim, fired in November for presumably leaking trade secrets about the business’s technology and sales to media, has since been renewed by Hyundai after a ruling by a South Korean government body under whistleblower protection laws.

Hyundai has submitted a complaint challenging the decision.

“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 stated at a bakery cafe shop operated by his daughter.

“I had a regular life and was much better off, and now I’m combating against a huge conglomerate.”

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