Kim Gwang-ho took a big risk revealing safety issues at Hyundai, his employer for the past 26 years. The engineer reported failures in proper engine checks that could prevent accidents. Whistleblowing is extremely rare, as Kim describes, "I will be the first and last whistleblower in South Korea's auto industry. There are just too many things to lose." He also said, "I had a normal life and was better off, but now I'm fighting against a big conglomerate."
Hyundai denied allegations in a statement, as reported by Reuters: "The company promotes openness and transparency in all safety-related operations, and its decisions on recalls comply with both global regulators and stringent internal processes."
The company also defended its practices, arguing that they were investigating issues before Kim raised them: "Hyundai has taken appropriate steps to ensure safety, quality and compliance with applicable regulations in our markets, including all recalls Hyundai has conducted to date."
Meanwhile, investigators raided Kim's house and confiscated some documents. Kim said, "At first my wife asked me not to do it. She was worried about living costs if I'm fired. But I'm stubborn, and persuaded her that the problems will be buried forever without my confession."
But the company eventually rehired him and reimbursed him for lost work time.
Kim's complaints did inspire the South Korean government to mandate a recall-the first in the country's history. In addition to the 1.5 million cars voluntarily recalled by the Hyundai and Kia, the government requirement adds another 240,000 to the list.
- Analyze how Hyundai is handling this situation and the statements made so far. What could be improved?
- How believable do you find Hyundai's responses? Based on what language or other criteria are you forming your opinion?