South Korean engineer Kim Gwang-ho was almost certain he would receive ample compensation from the whistleblower program of the US auto safety regulator for a tip-off about safety lapses at Hyundai Motor.
Now, at the end of a five-year ordeal, the award from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made Kim more than $24 million richer, and he aims to set up a foundation to promote responsible corporate culture.
“The compensation I expected from the whistleblower programme in the US outweighed the sacrifice I had to make in South Korea,” said Kim, who worked on the firm’s quality strategy team.
In 2016, Kim told the US regulator that Hyundai was not taking enough action to resolve an engine fault that increased the risk of crashes, citing an internal report from the strategy team to management.
Kim’s action led to an agreement last year by Hyundai and its affiliate, Kia, which are among the world’s top 10 automakers by sales, to pay a record civil penalty of $210 million.
Kim, who plans to set up a YouTube channel to teach people how to expose their employers’ bad behaviour, learned about the US law through training that Hyundai provided, and which inspired him to come forward, he said in an interview.
“(The amount) is not incredible or anything like that, I’d say it’s about right,” Kim said in the living-room of his home in the city of Yongin, south of Seoul.