Whistleblower for reporting Hyundai Motor’s engine defect, rewarded 28 billion won in the US


A reward of over $24 million will be awarded to a former Hyundai employee who is a whistleblower for reporting vehicle safety issues at Hyundai and Kia.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a press release saying it would pay more than $24 million to whistleblowers related to providing information about Hyundai and Kia’s U.S. subsidiaries.

This is the first time the NHTSA has paid a bounty to a whistleblower.

According to Reuters and others, the whistleblower who provided information related to Hyundai-Kia’s violations of the safety law is former Hyundai Motor Company’s former manager Kim Kwang-ho.

After working as an engineer at Hyundai Motor Company for 20 years, former manager Kim recognized the defect in the Theta 2 engine developed by Hyundai Motor, but judged that it was not taking appropriate measures, and reported it to the NHTSA and the Korean government one after another in 2016.

Based on this information, NHTSA conducted a recall adequacy investigation for Hyundai-Kia’s Theta 2 GDi engine.

NHTSA determined that both companies had timely and improperly recalled 1.6 million vehicles equipped with Theta 2, and inaccurately reported critical information to NHTSA about engine defects.

Accordingly, NHTSA imposed a fine of $81 million in November of last year, while Hyundai and Kia agreed to invest $56 million in both companies to strengthen safety performance measurement and develop a quality data analysis system.

If the agreement is not met, the US authorities will impose an additional $73 million on Hyundai and Kia Motors.

Up to 30% of the fine can be paid as a bounty to a whistleblower who provides material information that results in a fine of more than $1 million according to related laws.

The whistleblower is subject to a maximum payable percentage of 30% of the $81 million fine under the statute, NHTSA said.

“I am delighted to be fairly compensated for the risk I took to protect the owners of these defective cars,” Kim said in a statement on the same day, expressing gratitude to the American legal system.

“I hope that my report will materially improve safety at Hyundai Motor and the industry as a whole,” he said.

Kim’s legal representative said the bounty was the largest ever paid in the automotive sector worldwide.

After reporting the engine defect to the US and South Korean governments, Kim was fired in November 2016 on charges of violating internal security regulations, such as leaking company trade secrets.

He was also sued by the prosecution on charges of breach of duty.

Former manager Kim was already recognized as a whistleblower in Korea and received a medal, and in 2019, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission decided to pay a reward of 200 million won.

Last month, he was selected as ‘Public Interest Whistleblower of the Year’ by the US non-profit organization ‘Taxpayer Education Fund Against Deception’.

(Photo = Yonhap News)


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