[Exclusive] Korean Air subsidiary workers complain of toxic fumes

By Bak Se-hwan
  • Published : May 18, 2018 - 14:09
  • Updated : May 18, 2018 - 18:57
Korea Airport Service, a subsidiary of Korean Air, has been exposing employees to airborne carcinogens against safety regulations, the employees claimed Thursday.

Korea Airport Service's towing tractor is seen with no cover at the back seat. Photo credit: Kim Byung-soo

The ground personnel at Incheon International Airport who handle Korean Air’s cargo, refueling and other ground operations say that the vehicles they use “have no canopy that properly covers the driver’s seat.”

According to the employees, they constantly inhale toxic fumes both from the airport vehicles that have no cover and air carriers, long-term exposure to which can damage respiratory systems.

“There are some essential car options built into airport vehicles, like canopies, emission reducers and air conditioning but Korean Air and Korea Airport Service buy none of them to save money,” said Korea Airport Service employee Kim Byung-soo.

“We’re the only ground units that drive coverless vehicles even if we are exposed to high levels of carcinogens several times higher than the permitted levels,” Kim said.

The employees have been asking the company to address the situation since 2012, but the company simply suggested they “wear a proper mask” to reduce exposure in an internal report obtained by The Korea Herald.

The lack of safety equipment can be in violation of an industrial safety act, according to the company’s labor union.

Cho Sung-ae, head of a policy planning division at Korea Airport Service’s labor union said the aim of safety laws in an industrial sector should be to protect workers from risks.

“Exhaust fumes from diesel engines do cause cancer, so the company should have sufficient and feasible systems in place to prevent it from happening,” Cho said.

Another employee who asked not to be named claimed chair of Korean Air Cho Yang-ho is a “de facto decision maker of the subsidiary” who is trying to “put cost over safety of employees.”

Regarding the complaint, Koo Eun-kyung, chief of Korean Air’s domestic public relations team, said the Korea Airport Service was a subsidiary of Korean Air, but as an independent body.

“Cho would never give an order to the subsidiary’s board of directors” on any issue, Koo said.

By Bak Se-hwan (