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Kangwon Land sued for hiring the connected

Nov 11,2017
Last Tuesday, 22 people signed up for a class action lawsuit against Kangwon Land, accusing the state-owned casino and resort company of unfair hiring practices. Ninety-five percent of the company’s new recruits between 2012 and 2013 were found to have had connections with powerful figures, including opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) representatives.

The scandal first came to light when an internal audit was conducted by a new CEO of Kangwon Land in late 2015. The audit showed that out of a total of 5,268 applicants, 493 out of the 518 people hired from 2012 to 2013 got their jobs through connections.

People believed to have been hired unfairly now make up 11.4 percent of all full-time employees of the company. A job at Kangwon Land, located in Gangwon, is considered desirable. It gives an employee the stability of a public institution as an employer, while offering the perks of working at the only casino in the country where Korean citizens can gamble.

The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a non-governmental organization that helps people fight for justice in the face of abuse of power by the government or conglomerates, organized the class action suit against Kangwon Land. Twenty-two people signed on so far.

“Kangwon Land’s unfair recruiting process was a shameless act that betrayed the applicants’ belief that their application would be fairly assessed,” a member of the civic group said.

Many former job applicants worked part-time at the resort company hoping to score a full-time position. “There were many people like me who kept extending their contracts hoping for full-time employment in Kangwon Land,” one such former employee explained. “I hope there will be no more victims.”

Last September, Kangwon Land acknowledged that the hiring practices from 2012 to 2013 were the type of corruption that should have stopped decades ago. Only two people involved in the practices - former CEO Choi Heung-jip and a human resources manager - have been charged with unfair business practices and are awaiting trial.

The two were indicted in April, 14 months after Kangwon Land asked the Chuncheon District Prosecutors’ Office to investigate the case. Choi was allegedly personally involved in the hiring of a 43-year-old secretary who worked for Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, a member of the LKP and head of the National Assembly’s Judiciary Committee. He was hired by Kangwon Land’s water park even though he was underqualified.

Investigations revealed that government officials were likely to have been involved in the scandal. Two LKP officials, Rep. Kweon and Rep. Yeom Dong-yeol, are thought to have helped people get jobs, though they have denied involvement.

On Sept. 25, nonprofit civic groups including the Gangneung CitizenAct accused the two representatives of contributing to the company’s unfair business practices and abuse of authority and brought a complaint to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

The Moon administration has been trying to crack down on such unfair hiring procedures. Just last week, President Moon Jae-in gave an address to the National Assembly calling for the eradication of unfair hiring procedures and the levying of punishments on individuals at public institutions found guilty of engaging in such practices. Last month, the administration announced plans to implement a “one-strike out” policy for people involved in unfair recruitment in public institutions.

BY PARK JIN-HO, KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]