South Korea was downgraded by FAA because the government thought they couldn't possibly be downgraded- after all, they're one of the most advanced nations in the world right? Well, this cocky attitude had a lot to do with the way FAA's warnings were virtually ignored in the past. FAA gave many warnings- and far in advance, I might add, to this eventual downgrade. Yet, the government failed to get its act together and the whole nation will suffer as a result- economically and politically.
It's well known that there were (or are- depending on how aggressive the reforms were being pushed) serious cockpit deficiencies in Korea based airlines.
Taking KE for example, the South Korean culture of absolute respect for the captain led to lack of communication by other crew members. Questionable moves by the captains were ignored because it's a disrespect to question an elder's move. This is a dangerous environment to work in, as KLM (a Dutch airline) crash at Tenerife showed. The status of the captain intimidated the copilot. Given the right circumstances, OZ and KE would have ended up suffering same consquences as the KLM crew.
One of the most appalling problems discovered was the lack of 'dynamism' in sim training by KE pilots. KE pilots knew going into their sims what scenario they would be presented with. Needless to say, that defeats the whole purpose of training, as many went into the training/testing just memorizing the right steps required to pass.
Also, KE cockpit crews' lack of English skills have been noted. They obviously possess adequate skills not to jeopardize routine flights, but they may lack the critical skills necessary to communicate with outside when they're in trouble. I can only imagine that this problem is more prevalent than we, the flying public, are aware- as picking up English as a second (or even third) language can be tough for a grown up- even for professional purposes.
KE has its own school set up at Cheju Island to train pilots, yet bulk of the captains come from the air force. The decided faction within the pilot camp, and the dissatisfaction of civilian pilots over their slow promotion has caused some visible stir in the past few years.
If you think about it, the problems I noted above aren't isolated to KE and OZ. They're quite prevalent in many Asian airlines. Yet, due to KE's high profile (thanks to their flurry of accidents), led to their horrid safety reputation.
Not that I'm trying to defend KE for their incompetent crews, but most of the crashes involving commercial airlines are due to pilot error.
The blame for GUM crash has been shared somewhat by the US government, as survived victims received compensations packages valued in the millions from US. I really can't understand why OZ has such a bum rep, as their safety has been top-notch over the years. And please, don't cite some isolated incidents that have been ruled as non-issues. Look at SAS, they're having a bad run right now, and I don't see pax running away from them in droves. OZ is really the undeserved victim here.
Go ahead and rip my post if you'll. KE is still my choice when flying to World Cup 2002.