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Korean Air’s Forgetful 50th Anniversary

Korean Air’s Forgetful 50th Anniversary
Jeff Edwards

Korean Air is celebrating its 50th anniversary in a big way this year. The South Korea-flag carrier has unveiled a special livery highlighting the airline’s “contributions during the last 50 years to Korea’s airline industry” and “the national carrier’s ambitions to make the next 50 years even better,” but parts of that storied past may be best forgotten.

Korean Air wants to make sure passengers know it is celebrating a major milestone. This month, the carrier unveiled a special 50th Anniversary livery which will grace ten aircraft. Two of each of the Airbus A380, Airbus A220, Boeing 787, Boeing 777 and Boeing 737 planes in the fleet will be repainted with a “Beyond 50 Years of Excellence” livery featuring a stylized Taegeuk design.

“The slogan ‘Beyond 50 Years of Excellence’ emphasizes Korean Air’s contributions during the last 50 years to Korea’s airline industry, and also highlights the national carrier’s ambitions to make the next 50 years even better for the company,” the airline said in a statement unveiling the unique new design. “Employees of Korean Air took part in the design and selection process of the emblem and slogan.”

The South China Morning Post’s Adam Nebbs points out, however, that Korean Air’s contributions during the last 50 years to Korea’s airline industry haven’t always been distinguished. In a March 1st op-ed, “Korean Air marks 50 years of excellence, or is it accidents?” he notes that the airline, which was briefly nationalized in the 1960s has a tragic past and was once famed for an at times toxic “authoritarian Korean cockpit culture of total deference to the captain.”

Before reforms in the late 1990s, the carrier known as Korean Airlines until 1984, had an abysmal safety record. A troubled history that makes some wonder exactly how much nostalgia for the past the carrier should be encouraging.

“From 1971 to 1999, the airline had 10 fatal incidents, causing more than 700 deaths,” Nebbs wrote, later adding, “Now one of the safest airlines in the world, Korean Air has not had a fatal crash for almost 20 years – an anniversary that will probably be more quietly celebrated by KAL come December.”

The company’s more recent woes have revolved largely around public relations missteps rather than safety concerns. Two of the airline’s heiresses were fired from the airline after they were each caught abusing airline employees and contractors in separate incidents.

Cho Hyun-ah, who was jailed for her part in the now infamous “nut rage” incident at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and her sister, Cho Hyun-min, who allegedly belittled and threw water on an advertising executive during a meeting, were both fired in recent years. The family’s behavior so disturbed the Korean public, a petition was circulated to bar Korean Air from using the moniker “Korean.”

“I am deeply sorry that problems connected to my family have worried the people and employees of Korean Air,” Korean Air Chairman and CEO Cho Yang-ho said in an official mea culpa in April of 2018. “As chairman of Korean Air and as the head of my family, I feel crushed by the immature behavior of my daughters.”

[Source: Wikimedia/ ltdccba]


View Comments (2)


  1. GetSetJetSet

    March 4, 2019 at 9:13 am

    so because they had a bad safety record in the 70’s and 80’s they shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate their 50th Anniversary? This makes no sense.

  2. mizzou miles

    March 6, 2019 at 5:20 am

    This is one of the lamest pieces I have ever read here. This sounds almost like the current political theater (no matter which side you are on) we have here in the US. The carrier is celebrating 50 years – that is not in doubt as you (lamely) suggest. Way to drag up the nut thing – how does that possibly enter as a significant event of the last 50 years of KE’s operations? They are hardly “ignoring history” – when other carriers have celebrated similar milestones, I doubt that crashes many years ago were part of their thinking either. I’m not a KE defender – I actually dont particularly enjoy flying KE – I just think this is poor “journalism” at best.

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