Workers at Asiana Airlines, one of the two major air carriers here, held a candlelight vigil on Friday, holding the company‘s management responsible for a massive disruption to the carrier’s in-flight meal service and allegedly seeking profits in the interest of the owner family.
Wearing black clothes, and the Guy Fawkes mask, a group of unionized workers at Asiana gathered in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, at 6 p.m. More than 300 people are expected to attend. They plan to hold another rally on Sunday.
They are to protest against the top management including chairman of Kumho Asiana Group, the parent group of the carrier.
Since last week, some 110 Asiana flights operated without inflight meals.
A fire had broken out at a plant of its new supplier Gate Gourmet Korea, in March. To fill the gap in supply, Asiana Airlines turned to a smaller company, Sharp Do & Co Korea. But the company, which is capable of manufacturing 3,000 meals a day, was reportedly not able to cover Asiana’s catering service which requires up to 30,000 meals a day during peak season.
In a radical turn of events, the head of Sharp Do & Co Korea's subcontractor was found dead in an apparent suicide Monday.
He was under extreme stress for causing the so-called “inflight-meal fiasco,” the police said quoting his family.
The sit-in protest came three days after Kumho Asiana Group Chairman Park Sam-koo offered a public apology.
Industry insiders said that the fiasco started after Asiana terminated a 15-year-old deal with LSG Sky Chefs, a subsidiary of German airline Lufthansa, and inked a contract with GGK instead. GGK is an in-flight catering service firm Asiana jointly set up with China’s HNA Group. Starting from July, Asiana was to receive GGK in-flight meals for the next 30 years.
Some insiders have claimed that the 15-year-old partnership with LSG ended after Asiana reportedly demanded the German company acquire 160 billion won ($142 million) worth of bonds issued by Kumho Holdings at a time when Asiana was seeking to secure capital to buy back Kumho Tire.
LSG, which had 70 percent of its revenue relying on the deal with Asiana, has since filed a complaint with the Fair Trade Commission with the claim in April.
Chairman Park said at the press conference denied the allegation and said various factors had been considered including the catering quality.
LSG Korea in an official statement on Thursday afternoon, refuted that the company had applied “contractual terms“ in all agreements with Asiana and such an issue was not raised while the two were under contract.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)