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BMW Korea Chairman Kim Hyo-joon/Courtesy of BMW Korea

Kim Hyo-joon investigated due to engine fire scandal

BMW Korea Chairman Kim Hyo-joon has been regarded as one of the most successful CEOs in Korea. He led the company since midway through 2000 and made it the top foreign automotive brand here.

As a businessman, Kim’s career has been almost perfect and he seemingly has nothing further to prove – he was replaced by new CEO Han Sang-yun, who took charge of BMW Korea’s daily operations, early this year.

While he may not have anything more to prove, he has one significant thing to disprove – that he has not violated the Automobile Management Act, something is suspected off and thus running the risk of facing criminal charges.

Police summoned Chairman Kim late last week to question him on allegations that BMW tried to cover up defects in its cars that caused more than 35 engine fires last year alone.

The German automaker is also suspected of having sold cars knowing the problem existed and with no quick fixes.

Acknowledging flaws in the exhaust gas recirculation system, BMW Korea recalled more than 100,000 vehicles, but this measure was not enough to deal with the problems.

Police raided the company three times and booked 18 senior BMW officials including Chairman Harald Kruger and Kim, the government fined the automaker, and BMW car owners also filed a lawsuit against BMW and Kim.

And now Kim runs the risk of ending up on the wrong side of the bars.

I am sorry to have made many people worry. While recalls are almost done with the cooperation of our customers, we will now make efforts to prevent any recurrence of the incidents,” Kim said just before being questioned by police.

I will let the police know everything in detail, and will undergo questioning in a sincere manner.”

Asked whether he deliberately concealed the defects or accepted responsibility, however, the 62-year-old businessman remained silent.

Police said that they have yet to decide whether to seek an arrest warrant for him.

Kim, who started his career after graduating from high school, has pulled out all the stops to be successful in the business world and has had a lot of unprecedented achievements.

For one, he became the first local chairman at a foreign automotive brand here.

He is now struggling anew for the time being despite quitting the daily job of running BMW Korea; and the risk seems to be bigger in the face of a police investigation.

Time will tell whether he will be able to finish off an otherwise great career without detracting from it.