[THE INVESTOR] Kumho Asiana Group’s recent executive reshuffle has come under fire after questionable promotions, including Asiana Airlines’ catering service chief and the chairman’s daughter, were revealed to the public on July 4.
The group announced the promotions of 39 executives across affiliates on July 1, the first day when a dozen Asiana flights departed from Seoul’s Incheon Airport without meals after its new food supplier failed to meet the deadline. Now, the unprecedented “no-meal” fiasco shows no signs of abating.
Kumho Asiana Group Chairman Park Sam-koo
What you need to know about Asiana’s no-meal fiasco
According to news reports, the promoted catering chief, surnamed Im, had been responsible for Asiana’s in-flight service from 2016 onward. He is the same person who led supply talks with LSG Sky Chefs, the catering service firm owned by German airline Lufthansa, last year.
Ahead of the June expiration of their partnership that had last 15 years, Asiana demanded LSG invest 160 billion won (US$143.4 million) in bonds with warrants from Kumho Holdings, the group’s holding unit, in exchange for a contract extension. But the talks failed and Asiana set up a new joint venture with funding from China’s HNA.
The new firm, however, suffered a fire at its new production plant under construction in March, and Asiana went to a smaller catering firm to supply the in-flight meals, called Sharp Do & Co, which also used five subcontractors.
Amid criticism that the group had used Asiana as a tool to attract investments for the cash-strapped holding unit whose largest shareholder is Chairman Park Sam-koo, another shady promotion being mentioned is Park Se-jin, the chairman’s younger daughter who was newly appointed vice president at Kumho Resort.
After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Tokyo, the Japanese branch of the French hospitality education institution, the 40-year-old heiress had been a stay-at-home mom until only recently.
The group says the promotions had been decided long before the recent food shortages at Asiana, but questions are being raised about both the timing and qualifications of the figures.
On July 2, a CEO of one of the five subcontractors was found dead in an apparent suicide after having allegedly suffered extreme stress concerning the delayed supplies. Under their contract, Asiana can ask for up to 50 percent discounts for delays.
In the meantime, Asiana’s flight attendants, possibly having learned from their counterparts at Korean Air, have been releasing allegations of the group and ownership family’s unfair treatment of employees and subcontractors via an anonymous chatting app.
According to their revelations, the chairman left for China on a business trip on July 1 and the management ordered meals to be delivered to that airplane first so the flight could take off on time. On the same day, more than 30 flights suffered delayed departures for more than an hour and 12 eventually took off without meals.
By Lee Ji-yoon (email@example.com)