Andrzej Jeziorski/SINGAPORE

After the latest of a string of air safety disasters, Korean Air (KAL) is undergoing a management shake-up in an attempt to convince politicians, passengers and partners that it is turning over a new leaf.

Chairman and founder Cho Choong-Hoon has resigned, "taking the entire responsibility for Korean Air's recent aircraft accidents", says the airline. He is replaced by his son, Cho Yang-Ho, until now president and chief executive. Shim Yi-Taek, formerly executive vice-president, becomes president and chief executive.

As Flight International went to press, the airline was considering resignations submitted by 29 executives - all at the level of managing vice-president and above. After the crash in August 1997 of a Boeing 747-300 at Guam, which killed 229 people, the airline's management of over 100 executives at the level of vice-president and above handed in their resignations, although only about 20% of these were accepted.

Shim pledges "to make flight safety the company's number one priority, and to focus on a new corporate management based on the human aspect of operations".

The changes come after South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung blasted the airline's authoritarian, family-dominated, management. He said control needs to be handed to "professional managers". Kim added that KAL's safety record dealt a "serious blow" to the country's image. Kim caused a stir in October when he refused to fly with KAL on a political tour and switched instead to its Seoul-based rival, Asiana Airlines.

Airline analysts are sceptical of the latest moves, pointing out that although Shim is respected as a manager, he is also a close friend of the Chos. Meanwhile, KAL insists that Cho Yang-Ho's responsibilities as chairman will be focused on external relations.

The upheaval follows the fatal crash of a KAL Boeing MD-11 freighter shortly after take-off from Shanghai on 15 April.

This was KAL's twelfth serious accident since 1990, and followed the leak of a devastating internal report on the carrier's Boeing 747 operations (Flight International, 14-20 April).

The airline's two North American codeshare partners, Air Canada and Delta Air Lines, stopped placing their passengers on KAL aircraft immediately following the latest disaster. KAL passengers are still seated on Delta and Air Canada flights.

A Delta team of safety consultants is to leave at the end of May to work with KAL. The airline says that crash investigators have found the cockpit voice recorder from the crashed MD-11 at Shanghai.

Source: Flight International