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Seoul Metro closes forum, enrages workers

Nov 06,2018
Seoul Metro, a public company currently embroiled in a major nepotism scandal, shut down its internal company forum on Sunday after it was flooded with critical posts.

The forum was inaccessible as of 4 p.m. on Sunday. It was replaced by an announcement from the company’s management that said the website would be closed until the nepotism allegations have been cleared up.

The company, which is run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and operates subway lines No. 1 through 8, is currently under investigation by the Board of Audit and Inspections (BAI) after it was revealed that over 108 contract workers were allegedly upgraded to permanent positions with the help of insider information from relatives.

Thirty-one of the upgraded employees were children of Seoul Metro employees, 22 were siblings, 12 were spouses, 12 were cousins, six were parents and the rest were more distant relatives.

The scandal spurred fierce indignation from not only the public at large but other Seoul Metro employees after it was divulged during a parliamentary audit last month. The company’s internal online forum was inundated with testimonials and complaints from insiders over hiring malpractices.

Employees attacked the closure of the forum as an attempt to silence widespread opinions within the company.

“It’s questionable whether the unilateral decision to shut down the company forum is appropriate for a company currently being audited,” one Seoul Metro worker told the JoongAng Ilbo under the condition of anonymity.

“The BAI should look into the posts uploaded to the forum, since many of these directly relate to the hiring scandal,” said another employee. “[Shutting down the forum] amounts to blocking off a channel for testimonies to emerge.”

Other workers alleged that the shutdown was prompted by strong internal resistance to the company and Seoul city government’s broader policy of upgrading contract workers to the permanent payroll.

Some added that Seoul Metro also closed the forum at the end of last year, when there was fierce internal backlash after the company announced that hundreds of contract workers would be upgraded to permanent positions.

“This measure underscores the prevalent work culture at public companies,” said Koo Jeong-woo, a sociology professor at Sungkyunkwan University. “This closed organizational culture inflated suspicions of hiring malpractices.”

Koo added that the forum’s shutdown reveals that Seoul Metro has little desire to reform itself. Seoul Metro acknowledged that its forum was shut down, and its spokesman said the company had nothing more to add to the official announcement posted on its website.

The spokesman said the company shut down the forum last year because there were “baseless rumors” circulating on the website.

BY LIM SUN-YOUNG, SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]