Asiana Airlines was confirmed to have illegally hired a foreign national as its registered executive.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport is said to have neglected the carrier's unlawful registration even with knowledge of the matter but explained that the airline is not subject to the revocation of its business license.
This is raising criticism that the ministry is treating Asiana Airlines differently from Jin Air although the two air carriers committed the same wrongdoing.
Bae Sam-jin has more.
Brad Byeong-sik Park, an American citizen, served as an executive for Asiana Airlines for six years from 2004 to 2010.
Under Korean aviation safety law, foreign nationals cannot be registered as executives at Korean airlines, and a violation could cost the airline its operating license.
But the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport explained that it is not considering revoking the carrier's license over the registration.
It cited its legal reviews, which reveal that, before 2012, the law allowed for some discretion from governing authorities in punishing airlines for having foreign nationals as executives.
From 2004 to 2008, when Park was on the board, there were legal grounds to punish the registration of foreign nationals as executives, but for four years after that, airlines were given discretion over the matter, and the punishments were again reinstated in 2012.
Cho Hyun-min, former vice president of Jin Air, who was found to have illegally served as an executive for the air carrier between 2010 and 2016 although she is an American citizen, can be punished because her case is subject to the 2012 law.
But between 2004 and 2008 when Park worked as an executive for Asiana Airline, violation of the law still resulted in the loss of the airline's business license, so the ministry faces negligence of duty in handling this issue.
The ministry said it requested an investigation into a responsible official on charges of dereliction of duty regarding the Jin Air case, but the Asiana case is different because too much time has passed.
But when it comes to taking administrative measures like revocation of business license, there is no time limit, triggering criticism that the ministry is turning a blind eye to Asiana Airlines' illegal acts.
<Baek Sung-moon / Attorney> "The ministry does not give exact explanations, so rumors that it overlooked irregularities at Asiana Airlines seem to be true, and it remains to be seen what actions the ministry will take because there is no time limit as to enforcement of administrative measures."
Asiana Airlines explained that the executive was not directly involved in management and that it followed the due procedures of the ministry.
Bae Sam-jin reporting for Yonhap News TV.
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