Air Transport World

Korean Air Lines grows stronger.

Seoul--"As head of Korean Air Lines I feel a personal responsibility for the loss of our 747 even though the shooting down of a defenseless civil airlines by the Soviet Union was a cold-blooded act without excuse." These words expressed by Choong Hoon Cho, chairman of KAL, have a special significance because Cho has personally masterminded the airline's phenomenal development since he purchased the company from the government in 1969. In the course of KAL's rapid expansion from a small, mainly domestic carrier (with a few flights to nearby Japan) to one of the world's major intercontinental airlines there was just one major setback prior to the downing of the 747. This occurred in 1978 when a Boeing 707 badly off course was forced by Russian fighters to land on a frozen lake near Murmansk in the northwest extremity of the Soviet Union.

After the 1978 and 1983 "incidents" (KAL refuses to call them "accidents") some distant observers suggested that all was not well with the airline, hinting that flight crew training had been skimped because of the carrier's fast growth. Those who made such allegations did not know Choong Hoon Cho and his dedication to "making haste slowly." In an interview with ATW he defined the company's policy in the following terms: "We proceed on a step-by-step basis--slowly, steadily and cautiously." He is acutely aware that KAL--in addition to being a private company--is "the national flag carrier with the mission of elevating the national prestige."

It is not generally known that KAL is one of the few major intercontinental airlines outside the U.S. that is privately owned. It is part of Hanjin Group, whose parent company, the Hanjin Transportation Company, was founded by Choong Hoon Cho in 1945 and is now the largest land, sea and air transportation organization in Korea. The Group includes a securities company, a banking corporation, a construction enterprise and an insurance company (used by KAL). Its activities directly related to aviation, apart from KAL, include Korea Airport Service Company, Korea Air Terminal Service, Korea Aviation College and Inha University (formerly the Institute of Technology).

Aged 64, Choong Hoon Cho is chairman of the Hanjin Group as well as Korean Air Lines. Since acquiring the carrier he has also served as president of KAL, but at ATW presstime there were some indications that his 52-year-old brother, Choong Kun Cho, who has been the airline's executive VP since 1969, would take over the presidency. …

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