Delta Air Lines’ unexpected acquisition of stakes in Hanjin KAL, which is in an ownership battle against local activist fund KCGI, is associated with America’s military security strategies, according to experts. Delta acquired a 4.3 stake in Hanjin KAL, the holding company of Hanjin Group, on June 21, enabling Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Won-tae to maintain his control over the company.
Multiple sources at the National Assembly Defense Committee said on Tuesday that national security specialists and U.S. armed forces officials were seriously concerned about the attack launched by the KCGI and the National Pension Service (NPS) on Korean Air because the South Korean carrier is not only a local carrier but also a company responsible for the depot maintenance of U.S. military aircrafts. It means the conflict between Hanjin Group and KCGI is not just an ownership battle but should be dealt with from the perspective of international politics.
Korean Air’s Aerospace Division, which is in charge of maintenance, repair and operations of aircrafts, has been responsible for the maintenance of American military aircrafts since 1978. The South Korean carrier has been also taking charge of the maintenance of American helicopters, including CH-47 and UH-60, as well as American military aircrafts such as F-15, F-16, A-10, and C-130.
Korean Air is responsible for about 60 percent of all maintenance works of American aircrafts and helicopters in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the defense industry. It is also a member of the “TEAM ROK” consortium established in February this year for the maintenance of U.S. F-35 stealth fighter jets. For U.S. armed forces, Korean Air is a strategic partner that shares its national security strategies.
The U.S. released “Indo-Pacific Strategy Report” on June 1. In the report, it put an emphasis on strengthening partnerships and networks with its allies, such as South Korea, Japan, and Australia in order to keep China and North Korea, in check. Experts say that Korean Air must have been listed as one of the partners, which the U.S. plans to strengthen cooperation, in the report.
Local defense specialists say that Delta’s acquisition of stakes in Hanjin KAL has eliminated security and strategic uncertainties in the Asia-Pacific region for the U.S.
Delta, however, is drawing a clear line with such interpretations. In an e-mail interview with the Dong-A Ilbo, Delta was asked if the recent investment is associated with America’s national security strategies and answered that it is a private company and has never discussed with the U.S. government regarding the investment. The American airliner added that its latest investment in Hanjin KAL is to strengthen its long-term partnership with Korean Air and to provide consumers with greater convenience.