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Asiana Crash and Korean Culture Redux

At a National Transportation Safety Board today, experts testified that, well, Korean culture may have played a role in the accident:

In the crucial minutes before an Asiana Airlines flight crashed in San Francisco last summer, the pilots voiced concern about the plane’s low speed but did nothing to correct it until just before it hit the ground.

A hearing on Wednesday into the July 6 crash that killed three people and injured more than 180, highlighted the pilots’ mistaken reliance on the autopilot to maintain their airspeed but also Korean cultural factors that may have played a role and the design of the flight controls.

What cultural factors, you ask? Well, if interviews with the pilot are anything to go by, then these ones:

Captain Lee told investigators that any of the three pilots on the plane could have decided to break off the approach, but he said it was “very hard” for him to do so because he was a “low-level” person being supervised by an instructor pilot.

He also said that as the plane approached, he was momentarily blinded by a light on the runway, possibly a reflection of the sun, but that he would not wear sunglasses because that was considered impolite among Koreans.

I don’t know. The sunglasses comment makes me wonder if perhaps this is more of a “military culture” thing than anything else. Military folk in particular love the shades—see Park Chung-hee, the MPs at the DMZ, etc.—but junior officers won’t wear shades in front of their superior officers. Or so I’m told.

I’ll let the folk who actually know about such things do the talking, though.

photo credit: caribb via photopin cc

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  • WMunny

    All those people (you know who you are) that bitched about it having nothing to do with “Korean culture” can suck it.

  • Bob Bobbs

    One cold December, a buddy of mine and I dragged a huge bundle of firewood from Namsan and tied it together with ropes and set fire to a rooftop in Itaewon. Well, it was his rooftop. We were piss drunk and the neighbours freaked out. I wonder why. So the cops came. The young cop attacked my buddy and he ‘headbutted him’ down a flight of stairs while I was upstairs dousing the fire. The older cop came running up to me and asked ‘How old is your friend?’ I said, ’39.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m 55 and I want him to stop this right now!’

  • Juniper

    “What cultural factors, you ask? Well, if interviews with the pilot are anything to go by…”

    Interviews with the pilots? Forget what the Koreans responsible for the crash have to say about what caused it, lets listen to what “The” Korean says.

  • Chig

    I’d be concerned too if two drunkards were lighting fires on a rooftop lol.

  • kaizenmx

    Implying no other Asians listen and obey their “boss” or “sempai”.

    And the sunglasses thing? That shit is also common in parts of China and it’s definitely a part of culture in japan as well.

    How is this even Korean thing? It’s more like Asian thing.

    What a shitbag of an article…

  • ryuNchoosk

    I might be asking too much of the senior S. Korean pilots but may we let those Punky Brewster junior pilots wear sunglasses on take-offs and landings please? For the sake of the S. Korean children! Actually, S. Korean junior pilots don’t need sunglasses to see because if they so happened to see something and said something about what they saw, they’d just get reprimanded. Just blindfold them and let them go along for the ride.

  • kaizenmx

    This case is more like a dumbass pilot who risked his life and the life of others by simply being a “yes-man”.

  • ryuNchoosk

    Koreans don’t need to say anything(but we can bet they’ll react negatively instead of positively). We already know they’re happy with Korean culture and image being on the top of the list of most important things during a flight – an interchangeable 1 & 2 depending on the moment – with the safety of Korean passengers being the 3rd most important thing, unless their baggage or electronic devices are more important than their safety which would put safety at No. 5.

    I don’t think American passengers would allow their airline companies to have a cockpit culture which puts safety down the list of the most important thing during a flight. Why aren’t Koreans demonstrating against Asiana etc…Airlines? I still haven’t heard whether Asiana Airlines tested those pilots for drugs and alcohol? Given that, it’s certainly an incomplete investigation by the NTSB. Here here, continue to let foreign airline companies and their pilots to fly into America without drugs/alcohol testing after accidents and deadly crashes. For the children!

  • TheCorean

    First UPP, Lee Seok Ki, now Confucius. not a good year for The_Korean

  • TheCorean

    I guess the Korean Pilots Were “Confuciused’

  • TheCorean

    I think the plane crashing is a bit symbolic for things to come, a society that determined that a person’s year of birth implies greater wisdom and less corruption, thus requiring respect from those that were born later.

    Meanwhile in the rest of the world….

  • TheCorean

    “Hullo, I’m 65 and I want him to party like it’s 1999″

  • TheCorean

    In moderation please, someone with a little common sense would’ve put the whole Confucius age thing aside for now while I land the fucking plane. Give me a break the pilot was a fucking noob, he shouldn’t have been near planes.

  • TheCorean

    white people would say “cuz y’all eyes are too damn small you dont need sunglasses”

  • JACL

    Hmmm… so where exactly does it say that Korean culture definitively played a part in the crash – even a small one? Anyone? Basic critical reading skills are telling me that it’s way too early to be telling anyone to “suck it.” The jury is still out on this whole culture thing. Seems like it was pilot error due to their unfamiliarity with the controls which is, according to the NYTimes article, a problem not unique to Korean pilots.

  • Don

    The pilot could also just be telling the investigators what they want to hear. Bureaucrats want some sort of concrete answer and closure, and they eat up semi-sophisticated sounding explanations about “culture.” The pilots might not have known what they were doing or could have just messed up at that moment, but instead of just saying they messed up for no particular reason, they could be saying that it was “culture” to save face.

  • TheCorean

    Korean culture plays a real factor. It’s time Koreans abolished the age-seniority system, it’s an extremely outdated social system when Korea was getting raped left and right from invasions. We don’t need it anymore, get rid of it.

  • RElgin

    That sounds more plausible too. People make mistakes, not cultures.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    That’s a nice thought, but if you concede that some mistakes are dependent on cultural interpretation, then you’ll be on the slippery slope.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    JACL: “Hmmm… so where exactly does it say that Korean culture definitively played a part in the crash – even a small one?

    In the New York Times article that I linked to in another thread:

    Interviews with pilots indicate that Korean culture may have played a role in the crash. (Asiana is based in South Korea.)

    Captain Lee told investigators that any of the three pilots on the plane could have decided to break off the approach, but he said it was “very hard” for him to do so because he was a “low-level” person being supervised by an instructor pilot.

  • JACL

    I read that. Guess you and I have a different interpretation of the word “may.”

  • Anonymous_Joe

    BTW, I agree that the in-your-face approach is wrong. I do, nonetheless, think that this is an opportunity for Koreans to reevaluate their culture’s strong adherence to hierarchy.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Do we have different interpretations of “he said it was ‘very hard’ for him to do so because he was a ‘low-level’ person being supervised by an instructor pilot”, which followed “Korean culture may have played a role in the crash” in the previous sentence?

  • JACL

    Yes. I’m not ready to say culture definitely played a part based on that one statement without first considering the context it was said. Why are you so ready to believe it?

  • Bob Bobbs

    Isn’t that why people go to Korea in the first place?

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Well, the pilot blamed Korean culture, and I found that interesting. I could not imagine an American pilot blaming American culture or a European blaming European culture. If an American or European pilot had done so, he’d be laughed at. That’s the part I found interesting. Why aren’t Koreans decrying the Korean culture excuse used by the pilot?

    (BTW, if you are parsing the word “may” in this because you are looking for scientifically replicable cause and effect, of course you’re not going to get it. Any more than you would get the existence of alcohol in the pilots’ piss as the cause. The NYT or any board could not determine that. You are the one who set up the strawman: “Hmmm… so where exactly does it say that Korean culture definitively played a part in the crash – even a small one? Anyone?”

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Well, if that’s your hypothesis, then is the pilot’s excuse credible?

    That the pilots could have made such a claim, doesn’t that self-perpetuate and even reinforce the strict hierarchical aspect of Korean culture?

  • Don

    I’m not sure whether it’s credible or not.

    I don’t know if it would be about the hierarchical aspect so much as the “face” aspect.

  • Don

    Age seniority is going to tend to correlate with flight hours and experience, so it’s generally not simply a case of deferring to someone who’s older, but also deferring to someone with more knowledge and experience. In general, that’s not a bad rule or heuristic to have.

  • Don

    I don’t think it’s simply a case of “seniority bad, non-seniority good.” There have been cases where seniority could have prevented an accident. For example the Air France flight going from Brazil to France back in 2009 that crashed into the Atlantic, killing all 228 on board. The youngest pilot was at the controls when the plane got into trouble and crashed. He had put the plane into stall, causing the crash. The crew may have been able to prevent the crash had they adhered more to seniority. When the much older and more experienced captain finally took over, he knew what to do to avoid the crash, but it was too late.

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/print-this/what-really-happened-aboard-air-france-447-6611877?page=all

    At 1h51m, the cockpit becomes illuminated by a strange electrical phenomenon. The co-pilot in the right-hand seat, an inexperienced 32-year-old named Pierre-Cédric Bonin, asks, “What’s that?” The captain, Marc Dubois, a veteran with more than 11,000 hours of flight time, tells him it is St. Elmo’s fire, a phenomenon often found with thunderstorms at these latitudes.

    At approximately 2 am, the other co-pilot, David Robert, returns to the cockpit after a rest break. At 37, Robert is both older and more experienced than Bonin, with more than double his colleague’s total flight hours. The head pilot gets up and gives him the left-hand seat. Despite the gap in seniority and experience, the captain leaves Bonin in charge of the controls.

    At 2:02 am, the captain leaves the flight deck to take a nap. Within 15 minutes, everyone aboard the plane will be dead.

    ….

    The men are utterly failing to engage in an important process known as crew resource management, or CRM. They are failing, essentially, to cooperate. It is not clear to either one of them who is responsible for what, and who is doing what. This is a natural result of having two co-pilots flying the plane. “When you have a captain and a first officer in the cockpit, it’s clear who’s in charge,” Nutter explains. “The captain has command authority. He’s legally responsible for the safety of the flight. When you put two first officers up front, it changes things. You don’t have the sort of traditional discipline imposed on the flight deck when you have a captain.”

    ….

    Another of the revelations of Otelli’s transcript is that the captain of the flight makes no attempt to physically take control of the airplane. Had Dubois done so, he almost certainly would have understood, as a pilot with many hours flying light airplanes, the insanity of pulling back on the controls while stalled. But instead, he takes a seat behind the other two pilots.

    This, experts say, is not so hard to understand. “They were probably experiencing some pretty wild gyrations,” Esser says. “In a condition like that, he might not necessarily want to make the situation worse by having one of the crew members actually disengage and stand up. He was probably in a better position to observe and give his commands from the seat behind.”

    But from his seat, Dubois is unable to infer from the instrument displays in front of him why the plane is behaving as it is. The critical missing piece of information: the fact that someone has been holding the controls all the way back for virtually the entire time. No one has told Dubois, and he hasn’t thought to ask.

    ….

    02:13:40 (Robert) Remonte… remonte… remonte… remonte…
    Climb… climb… climb… climb…

    02:13:40 (Bonin) Mais je suis à fond à cabrer depuis tout à l’heure!
    But I’ve had the stick back the whole time!

    At last, Bonin tells the others the crucial fact whose import he has so grievously failed to understand himself.

    02:13:42 (Captain) Non, non, non… Ne remonte pas… non, non.
    No, no, no… Don’t climb… no, no.

    02:13:43 (Robert) Alors descends… Alors, donne-moi les commandes… À moi les commandes!
    Descend, then… Give me the controls… Give me the controls!

    Bonin yields the controls, and Robert finally puts the nose down. The plane begins to regain speed. But it is still descending at a precipitous angle. As they near 2000 feet, the aircraft’s sensors detect the fast-approaching surface and trigger a new alarm. There is no time left to build up speed by pushing the plane’s nose forward into a dive. At any rate, without warning his colleagues, Bonin once again takes back the controls and pulls his side stick all the way back.

    02:14:23 (Robert) Putain, on va taper… C’est pas vrai!
    Damn it, we’re going to crash… This can’t be happening!

    02:14:25 (Bonin) Mais qu’est-ce que se passe?
    But what’s happening?

    02:14:27 (Captain) 10 degrès d’assiette…
    Ten degrees of pitch…

    Exactly 1.4 seconds later, the cockpit voice recorder stops.

  • JACL

    1) Perhaps the reason why American and European pilots never blame their cultures for a crash is because they are never asked about the role their cultures played like these Korean pilots have been ceaselessly, by pundits, armchair pilots, news reporters, and most importantly, the NTSB. This makes a bit of a difference, wouldn’t you say?

    2) No, I’m not looking for a “scientifically replicable cause and effect.” Just asking for a more complete context before making up my mind. Not unreasonable. What is unreasonable is stating unequivocally at this point that Korean culture was to blame given the sparse information we have available.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    It never said it was exclusively Korean. It’s a Korean thing because it was a Korean airline with Korean operators.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    It’s important to ask questions of superiors. It offers different perspectives and forces superiors to have valid reasons behind their actions and decisions. If the senior pilot has more flight hours and experience, then he should be able to explain his reasoning to the junior pilot.

    And when it comes to planes that are about to crash, it’s best to defer to anyone who’s paying attention to the situation.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    1) “This makes a bit of a difference, wouldn’t you say?” It particularly makes a difference if the person being asked thinks it is so. Also, you don’t know that anyone asked the pilots about the role of Korean culture.

    2) “What is unreasonable is stating unequivocally at this point that Korean culture was to blame given the sparse information we have available.” You keep stuffing that strawman. Maybe you’ll actually believe it.

  • Don

    Right, but in high risk, high pressure, intense situations, people generally don’t have the luxury of discussing various perspectives and reasons for them. That’s why people rely on general rules, heuristics, protocols for such situations.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Back when this crash happened, it was presumptuous to argue one way or the other. The proper thing to do was to wait for the NTSB hearings to find out what happened in the cockpit. Now we are finding out.

  • JACL

    “Also, you don’t know that anyone asked the pilots about the role of Korean culture.”

    From CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/11/us/ntsb-hearing-asiana-flight-214/index.html?hpt=hp_t3): “Information released at Wednesday’s hearing also showed investigators
    are concerned about the role Korean and airline culture played in the
    crash.”

    Yeah, investigators were asking.

    So my saying that there is nothing as of yet that shows the Korean pilot was actually blaming Korean culture for the crash, so we should wait for more information to come out… this is a straw man’s argument?? lol, your definition of a strawman’s argument is something else that we disagree about.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    I agree that protocols are necessary for urgent situations. But according to the NY Times article, the pilots were mentioning the low speed and altitude during the last minute of the flight, yet it wasn’t until the final three seconds that the senior captain gave the order to abort the landing. During that last minute, someone should have directly asked the senior pilot why they weren’t aborting.

  • Sumo294

    KAL airlines used to be one the worst airlines in terms of safety–now I prefer to ride KAL because they are dedicated to safety . . . perhaps, management is the problem at Asiana?

  • seouldout

    Or at the very least allow people to wear sunglasses when the weather and safety calls for it.

  • George_Smiley

    This is NOT without precedent.

    “In 1997 a Korean Air 747 crashed in Guam short of the runway when the plane’s senior captain mistook a glide slope indicator and essentially ignored the stated concerns of other cockpit crew.”

    http://business.time.com/2013/07/10/asiana-crash-more-likely-than-pilot-error-cockpit-miscommunication/#ixzz2nGE7IgmE

    It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Confucious played a part (though, I understand the resistance to the notion).

    Korea has a nice culture, just not one that generally seems to encourage frank, plain-spoken, expression of truth to authority at the expense of decorum.

  • 8675309

    After the KAL Flight 801 crash in Guam in August 1997 that killed 228 mostly Korean passengers and crew when their 747-300 crashed into Nimitz Hill while on final approach to Guam International Airport as a result of a combination of pilot error, miscommunication, outdated maps and an outage of the Guam airport’s ILS glideslope indicator, Korean Air — upon the recommendation of outside consultants and training experts — were forced to completely revamped their pilot training program and overhaul every aspect of a previously hierarchical Korean-style cockpit culture — including a mandate that all cockpit conversations among Korean-speaking flight crew would now take place in the informal form of speech called 반말 rather than the honorific form, or 존댓말. Also mandated was a requirement that no flight officer on the flight deck could ever again willfully ignore another flight officer’s recommendation or instruction simply because of rank or age, as had happened on that flight.

    As a result, KAL successfully overcame those cultural factors that were identified in the aftermath of the crash as having hampered proactive and egalitarian interactions among flight crew and jeopardizing flight safety. Unsurprisingly, KAL hasn’t had a crash of that magnitude ever since then. Asiana, on the other hand, didn’t undergo the same change in cockpit training and culture that Korean Air had to do in the wake of the Guam tragedy. That said, Asiana would be well advised to use the lessons learned from this recent tragedy with Flt. 214 as well as KAL’s and follow suit before it happens again.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Well said. The reason the NTSB hearing brought up culture as a possible cause is because there is precedent for it. And anyone who argues with your last sentence either hasn’t worked in Korea or is in complete denial.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    A further reason that the NTSB brought up culture as a possible cause is that the pilot said so. From the New York Times article that I linked to in another thread:

    Interviews with pilots indicate that Korean culture may have played a role in the crash. (Asiana is based in South Korea.)

    Captain Lee told investigators that any of the three pilots on the plane could have decided to break off the approach, but he said it was “very hard” for him to do so because he was a “low-level” person being supervised by an instructor pilot.

  • Aja Aja

    I understood it as “low level” person meaning less experienced, in training, getting instructions from a more experienced pilot.

  • Aja Aja

    The investigators weren’t just asking, they were suggesting it and driving the investigation towards it.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    JACL

    “Also, you don’t know that anyone asked the pilots about the role of Korean culture.”

    From CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/11/…”Information released at Wednesday’s hearing also showed investigators
    are concerned about the role Korean and airline culture played in the crash.”

    Yeah, investigators were asking.

    It would have been irresponsible for investigators not to have showed concern given the pilot’s statements.

    So my saying that there is nothing as of yet that shows the Korean pilot was actually blaming Korean culture for the crash, so we should wait for more information to come out… this is a straw man’s argument?? lol, your definition of a strawman’s argument is something else that we disagree about.

    Now you’re shifting the goal posts too. You need to reread what you had written: “Hmmm… so where exactly does it say that Korean culture definitively played a part in the crash – even a small one?

  • Aja Aja

    Proud to be acting like drunk jerks. Only the faulty Western culture would think that’s cool and funny about torching a building.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Didn’t say “proud” of the incident.
    Didn’t say he thought it was cool.
    Didn’t say he thought it was funny.
    Didn’t say he torched a building.

    Aside from all that, you’ve inspired confidence in your point.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Aja Aja: “The investigators weren’t just asking, they were suggesting it and driving the investigation towards it.”

    Citation, please.

  • 8675309

    “This is NOT without precedent.”

    The problem with your “precedent” is that it’s an ad hominem fallacy that puts all Koreans categorically in the same boat, because as we all know, since Koreans all act and think alike, of course KAL and Asiana are all the same now, aren’t they?

    The fact is, however, that KAL and Asiana are two totally different and separate companies that operate differently and under different procedures, policies and cultures. More importantly, KAL — unlike Asiana — completely revamped their pilot training program and overhauled their cockpit procedures after bringing in outside consultants and training experts in the aftermath of the Guam tragedy in 1997.

    One of the many recommendations that were implemented by KAL is that flight crew could no longer override each other, or pull rank in the cockpit during flight operations simply based on age or seniority.

    Also, Korean-speaking flight crew at KAL are now only allowed to use 반말 rather than the honorific form, or 존댓말 when communicating with each other.

    These changes in training and in cockpit culture at KAL drastically improved the overall level of communication among flight crew to make their interactions more egalitarian and proactive instead of behaving in an overly deferential or obsequious manner.

    As a result, KAL hasn’t had a crash of the magnitude of the 1997 Flight 801 Guam tragedy since then, while Asiana has yet to learn what KAL did.

  • Juniper

    Jenny, you’re a smart guy so if you think about it you’ll realize that putting Korean people living together in a society with the same laws, traditions, beliefs, values and customs under the rubric of “Korean culture” isn’t an “ad hominem fallacy” it’s the very definition of “Korean culture”.

    KAL may have, as you say, overcome aspects of Korean culture found by them to be detrimental to the operation of aircraft (e.g. by using 반말 rather than 존댓말) “while Asiana has yet to learn what KAL did” but this certainly doesn’t negate the influence of “Korean culture” — on the contrary, it emphasizes its effect.

  • Sumo294

    Well, you forgot to add that the safety and compliance program at KAL is basically a Swiss creation–but in the end, the changes were made and implemented by a Korean company. The new culture is now–the culture–at KAL. Do the changes recommended by Swiss safety experts make KAL a Swiss company? Could it be that KAL is a Korean company that did what was needed to succeed at their business?

  • Juniper

    Don — Great point. I think that’s a real possibility. Of course (slipping on the gloss of our subtly here) saying what one believes another wants to hear to avoid blame or using the excuse of “please understand my unique culture” to save face is itself a cultural phenomenon.

  • seouldout

    “All Koreans in the same boat.” Safer than all Koreans in the same aeroplane.

  • George_Smiley

    Yes, well, your grasp of honorifics vs 반말 indicates to me that you are also quite capable of understanding that I made no claim that these airlines are identical.

    You make the point quite well that there is a distinction to be made between these two carriers–in their “operations”, “procedures” and “cultures” and, thus, have made my point for me. This full-throated insistence belies the fact that, in many ways, “one of these things is just like the other” in one critical aspect 즉 the culture of deference to 선배님.

    The precedent is not mine, it is one provided in modern Korean commercial aviation. At the risk of putting too fine a point on it: Korea’s ONLY two international carriers seem (at this point in the investigation) to have exhibited, in their history of operation, similar communication problems that have ended in death and destruction.

    I’m very glad for the recommendations implemented by KAL and have no reason nor evidence to refute the claim. –Thank goodness, actually!

    Your indignation–however righteous–is, I’m afraid, misplaced. Your charge of bigotry is a flaccid one. (I mean, honestly, let’s put a match to that paper tiger and discuss it like I’m sure you’re capable of doing. This isn’t youtube.). Besides, misquotation really isn’t a very brave form of argumentation.

    Besides, I don’t need a “hominem” to identify a pattern. It’s a phenomenon that exists in a million facets of life in Korea. It pervades and informs the majority of social interaction. It is vast, complex, multifaceted and I won’t pretend to understand each of it’s guises and manifestations…I don’t judge it as inherently good or bad, and I’m perfectly willing to recognize that it belongs in context–one of which is NOT the cockpit of a jetliner.

    What is more relevant, and what alarms me, is that the necessity still remains–more than a decade and a half later–to revisit the whole “deference-to-my-superior-at-the-expense-of-other-people’s-lives” thing.

    The KAL example, to reiterate, is of historical relevance.

    Now put those scary Latin words away before you hurt someone.

  • seouldout

    But he got a book deal, didn’t he?

  • seouldout

    And the difference is?

  • seouldout

    Curious here. Are you Chickenpie on Dave’s ESL?

    After the KAL Flight 801 crash in Guam in August
    1997 that killed 228 mostly Korean passengers and crew when their 747-300 crashed into Nimitz Hill while on final approach to Guam International Airport as a result of a combination of pilot error, miscommunication, outdated maps and an outage of the Guam airport’s ILS glideslope indicator, Korean Air upon the recommendation of outside consultants and training experts were forced to completely revamped their pilot training program and overhaul every aspect of a previously hierarchical Korean-style cockpit culture — including a mandate that all cockpit conversations among Korean-speaking flight crew would now
    take place in the informal form of speech called 반말 rather than the honorific form, or 존댓말. Also mandated was a requirement that no flight officer on the flight deck could ever again willfully ignore another flight officer’s recommendation or instruction simply because of rank or age, as had happened on that flight.

    As a result, KAL successfully overcame those cultural factors that were identified in the aftermath of the crash as having hampered proactive and egalitarian interactions among flight crew and jeopardizing flight safety. Unsurprisingly, KAL hasn’t had a crash of that magnitude ever since then. Asiana, on the other hand, didn’t undergo the same change in cockpit training and culture that Korean Air had to do in the wake of the Guam tragedy. That said, Asiana would be well advised to use the lessons learned from this recent tragedy with Flt. 214 as well as KAL’s
    and follow suit before it happens again.

  • http://kuiwon.wordpress.com/ Kuiwon

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/02/us-usa-derailment-newyork-idUSBRE9B007F20131202

    As a thought exercise, it might be more illustrative to see commenters here argue why American culture was at fault in the NYC train derailment incident a few weeks ago. I think this would point to how ridiculous the whole culture-played-a-role argument is — and in my view, a form of racism, which I’ve called “racism in thick framed glasses.” I will start, as a diabolus advocatus.

    I think American culture’s emphasis on individualism and its promotion of the notion that “rules were made to be broken” played a part in the NYC derailment. The driver of that train should have known that he was supposed to go at a lower speed, but because of his American culture even the laws of physics, which dictate how fast the train should go to safely make it around the turn, didn’t matter to him. This tragedy could have been averted, but for his American culture.

  • wangkon936

    Makes sense.

  • aligner

    Can you explain what it means to have a “nice culture,” or is that just something you say before stating something unpleasant about aforementioned nice culture?

  • ryuNchoosk

    They were only gathering information. Yesterday was two days into one. They didn’t plan to go for 11 hours but the previous day was postponed so they did it all in 1 day. When the day was about 2/3 over Deborah Hersman held a 12 minute press conference to explain it for you and she wasn’t analyzing anything though they could make a recommendation at anytime. You could’ve watched it live in Eng. or Korean language and can still watch a replay.
    NTSB’s Hersman on Asiana Crash Hearing and Probe
    http://www.bloomberg.com/video/ntsb-s-hersman-on-asiana-crash-hearing-and-probe-XaBaU7IoSg25iZLA1QuJwQ.html

  • seouldout

    I agree that American culture contributed to this crash. But, unlike the Asiana flight, he sat alone in the cabin.

  • ryuNchoosk

    KAL hired foreign pilots long ago and have since gotten rid of many and many chose to leave because they didn’t feel welcome. Asiana has learned from KAL, they recently hired only 1 foreigner to help, but he’ll be staying clear of the cockpit for the most part because things didn’t work out as well as it should’ve with the Korean/foreigner mixed cockpits.

  • seouldout

    Not of the same magnitude, but the same “cultural” issues were cited for KAL flight 8509′s crash 2 years later in 1999. “After the investigation, Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the United Kingdom issued recommendations to Korean Air to revise its training program and company culture, to promote a more free atmosphere between the captain and the first officer.”

    Anyway, one would think that doing a u-turn and flying the wrong way over the USSR (flight 902) or taxiing to the wrong runway (flight 084) and then colliding with another plane might have triggered a re-evaluation earlier and thus saved many lives.

  • ryuNchoosk

    And he could’ve nodded off, but you can be sure they tested him for drugs and alcohol, unlike the Korean pilots who seemingly went unchecked because as we and Asiana Airlines all know Korean pilots just wouldn’t ever drink or do drugs.

  • seouldout

    Ain’t it nature or nurture? If it isn’t DNA then the nurturing, which is a product of culture, is at play.

  • George_Smiley

    건배!

  • George_Smiley

    Yes, I can and no, it isn’t.

  • seouldout

    The US agreed (outrageously) to not test foreign pilots.

    I don’t think drugs were a contributing factor; alcohol is a possibility.

  • seouldout

    No drive-by shootings. That”s kinda nice, ain’t it?

  • seouldout

    Chug chug chug.

  • seouldout

    The mistake is to correlate age and experience with smarts or wisdom. A lot of old people have been doing the same stupid sh!t for a long time – that happens when one goes unchallenged. Better to have a workplace where mentoring is done by true experts.

  • aligner

    I see, something like America has a nice culture, accept for the tendency of mischievous individuals to indiscreetly let go of steam with firearms at other mischievous individuals involved in clandestine activities. So that is what a nice culture is.

  • seouldout

    Noice. :p

  • seouldout

    There was a KAL crash several years ago where the Korean co-pilot defied the commands of the Canadian pilot and… kaboom! The Korean gov’t tossed the Canucki in the slammer and later deported him. Voice recordings and the investigators pinned the blame on the Korean.

    In this case we see blind obedience to hierarchy and deference to seniority wasn’t a cause.

    Is it Korean culture to defy a foreigner?

  • djson1

    Maybe all this analysis is useless. Digging into the cultural background of this all is too much. I would just be led to think it was an incompetent and stupid pilot (and his mentor as well). I believe the pilot already gave several excuses at first before giving in to his own fault (he initially said the sun’s reflection was in his eyes for a second).

  • bigmamat

    I think the theory is that he nodded off because he had changed shifts that week from nights to days. The only American cultural problem that could be blamed on is our tendency to work and play to hard and not get enough sleep. Oh damn…I just realized. That’s a Korean cultural thing too…

  • seouldout

    Initially he said he was temporarily blinded by a flash of bright light.

    At the time it was reported Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board,said it wasn’t clear what could have caused the problem. Asked specifically whether it could have been a laser pointed from the ground, Hersman said she couldn’t say what caused it. “We need to understand exactly what that is,” Hersman said.

  • seouldout

    Not really. Almost immediately the usual causes were ruled out. It was a sunny day with clear visibility. There was no distress call from the pilots. Audio and transcript of the crew’s conversation was posted. And video showing the aeroplane skipping atop the waves was released.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Citation, please.

  • seouldout

    Gladly. It was flight 2033, http://www.airdisaster.com/cvr/kal2033.shtml

    Aja Aja, see how that works?

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Don: “That’s why people rely on general rules, heuristics, protocols for such situations.”

    In Korea, what are those general rules, heuristics, and protocols that Koreans rely on in such situations?

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Kuiwon: “As a thought exercise, it might be more illustrative to see commenters here argue why American culture was at fault in the NYC train derailment incident a few weeks ago.”

    No it wouldn’t. The driver of that train never made the “please understand my unique ‘American culture’ claim.” Also, America by its legal culture, has more rules and regulations and vicious lawyers that make certain these rogue individuals were properly trained in the company’s culture of following the company’s protocols.

    Lawyers and law that put the liability on the company with deep pockets rather than the individual is American culture.

  • pawikirogii

    ever see white amerricans ask what it is about their culture that produces so many serial killers and mass murderers? it’s racism going on here and nothing more more. i’m sure not surprised.

  • AC

    hahaha

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Were the full audio and transcripts of the flight deck posted then? I don’t remember this. If so, then I stand corrected. I thought people were merely making assumptions based on the mysterious cause of the accident.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    “A lot of old people have been doing the same stupid sh!t for a long time – that happens when one goes unchallenged.”

    This should be an office memo sent out to every company, school, and government office in Korea.

  • wangkon936

    That’s throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  • http://www.bcarr.com/ Brendon Carr

    Employees performing work for an employer are agents of the employer. Is that so hard to understand?

  • http://f5waeg.blogspot.com/ F5Waeg

    I’ve heard the sunglasses thing a few times. . .it’s more of a rural thing, having been told several times in the past not to wear my shades when entering some small town in the sticks. From what I can gather it is associated with the military; if they can’t see your eyes, they can’t tell if you are mocking them or not, where you’re looking, etc.

  • http://f5waeg.blogspot.com/ F5Waeg

    I remember reading about that one. Luckily no one was killed, but it seemed insane at the time that they would not discipline the person responsible for it. . .but then, the Hebei Spirit offers us another example of a similar situation

  • seouldout

    Actually yes, the culture is mentioned often.

  • RElgin

    That is an assumption on your part.
    You might as well accuse the pilots of having “Al Haig Syndrome”, all at the same time.

  • Juniper

    As a thought exercise, it might be more illustrative to see commenters here argue why American culture was at fault…

    There are countless examples. Gun violence and America’s relationship w/ the 2nd amendment. Listen to Piers Morgan and Bill Maher talk about US gun culture:
    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/bill-maher-explains-american-gun-culture-to-piers-morgan-this-is-a-theology-in-this-country/

    Also, with railway accidents alcohol and drug related accidents were seen as cultural and tests were brought in to control against it. From the view of a dry culture (e.g. Muslims), think of how all the accidents, death, family problems, health, etc. in drinking cultures like the US and Korea could be blamed on culture.

    In short, just because your examples were absurd doesn’t mean the thought experiment fails.

  • seouldout

    If it isn’t nature and it isn’t nurture what then can it be?

  • seouldout

    The Korean co-pilot was lauded in the press as having rescued the flight by wresting control from the reckless foreigner. Then the recordings were listened to. Face meet egg.

  • Bob

    1) Actually, I read he was told by the instructor and the copilot to abort three times before the crash, 2) You think Koreans are above lying to save their hides? Never been involved in a car accident here, eh? and 3) Would he be the first to ever play the “you don’t understand Korean culture” get out of jail card?

  • Bob

    More like saving his ass.

  • redwhitedude

    Korean culture? How about corporate culture?

  • seouldout

    Reread. The instructor and the co-pilot were one and the same person. The call for abort (“go around”) was uttered twice. At 3 seconds and 1.5 seconds before impact. Too late.

  • PEIGUY

    according to a report from Bloomberg: “As Flight 214 from Seoul neared San Franscico , Lee Kang-kuk, the training pilot, entered a series of parameters into the flight management system and auto -throttle systems that made the plane think he wanted to accelerate and climb. To counter the planes’s increase, he pulled the power back so he could resume his descent, documents show. Because of the way the auto throttle had been set, combined with the fact that he had shut off the autopilot, the throttles stayed in the lowest setting according to the NTSB.”

    Sounds like general incompetence was the 1st mitigating factor along with lack of training. Air Speed and Altitude are the two most critical components of flying any airplane whether it be a single engine Cesna or a Boeing 777. The training pilot, along with the other two pilots failed to notice both of those factors and failed to act when they finally became aware of the problem. I really hope neither of them step foot in a cockpit again. The back up pilot is flying again.

  • Bob Bobbs

    At least I didn’t execute my uncle.

  • Bob

    Thanks for the clarification, but I still stand behind points #2 and #3.

  • RElgin

    Look up the “I’m in control” event and imagine a lack of leadership in the cockpit.

  • Juniper

    The US agreed (outrageously) to not test foreign pilots.

    Seriously?? Where did you read that? Got a link?

  • seouldout
  • ryuNchoosk

    Here is another link for you. We’ll never know if drugs/alcohol contributed to the crash because Asiana Airlines doesn’t have the necessary checks/balances of their own pilots. Asiana chooses not to eliminate possible causes of accidents and crashes. Why would a Korean security screener at Incheon Airport say anything if he/she smelled Soju on a pilot when Asiana Airlines doesn’t even care?
    http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/asiana-flight-214-no-drug-alcohol-testing-after-crash-93924.html
    “U.S. authorities couldn’t perform drug or alcohol tests on the four pilots who were aboard Asiana Flight 214 when it crashed at San Francisco International Airport — a lapse that will complicate efforts to figure out why they were seemingly unaware that the plane was coming in too
    slowly and too low.
    Those were the latest revelations Tuesday from
    National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Debbie Hersman, who said her agency and the Federal Aviation Administration couldn’t legally require the crew of the South Korea-based airline to submit to testing after the crash. That decision is left to the airline’s home country.

    “The U.S. does not have oversight responsibility for Asiana or for foreign-license pilots,” Hersman said.”

  • biscuit

    That’s a good question. I also wonder what it is about a culture that could have produced such pent-up, emotionally volatile and violent serial killers as Cho, Seung-Cho or One L Goh.

    And you’re also right about the racism. You must now feel at home, sharing a website with racists. Welcome.

  • Juniper

    Didn’t doubt it, just stunned.

  • seouldout

    It is mind boggling stupid, isn’t it?

  • seouldout

    Gosh! Thanks for the vote down, Mr. Asiana Pilot Trainer.

    Apologies for wounding your delicate sensitivities.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    That was my point. That part of American culture is well established. For OP to claim that “[He thinks] American culture’s emphasis on individualism and its promotion of the notion that “rules were made to be broken” played a part in the NYC derailment” is ludacrisp.

  • Arghaeri

    That’s just bullshit, if a foreign driver crashes a car, I’ll bet they test him.

    Once the plane lands in US territory it comes within US jurisdiction.

  • TheStumbler

    ” could not imagine an American pilot blaming American culture or a European blaming European culture.”
    Perhaps you have forgotten the 1977 Tenerife disaster.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    TheStumbler: “Perhaps you have forgotten the 1977 Tenerife disaster.”

    Forgotten it? Ha! I remember it like it was 36 years ago. For the benefit of everyone else, however, perhaps you could provide citations and appropriate substantiated commentary.

  • TheStumbler

    No, I can’t. But anecdotally, I do remember that in the US at the time, there was a lot of buzz that the “Dutch culture” was a contributing factor. I just want to point out that indeed another country’s culture has been widely discussed in the press and media as a possible issue leading to a crash. Korea is not unique in this respect, as many commentators are trying to suggest.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I do remember that in the US at the time, there was a lot of buzz that the “Dutch culture” was a contributing factor.

    So you’re saying that you remember that anecdotally Americans blamed Dutch culture. I wrote that “I could not imagine an American pilot blaming American culture or a European blaming European culture” for the cause of his crash, which is something different.