The new hotel, located across the street from a subway station, would have fewer rooms than the 896-room Wilshire Grand but would be more luxurious, Thomas said. It would also have meeting and banquet facilities supported by parking for 1,700 cars.
The Wilshire Grand, built in 1952, was originally a Hotel Statler and later a Hilton. Once one of the city's best hotels, it is now a mid-market inn catering to conventioneers and tour groups from overseas. The property is a few blocks north of Staples Center and has office wings that are 15 stories high.
Korean Air bought the hotel in 1989.
Hanjin's connection to Los Angeles runs deep. The chairman, his brother, his sister and his three children all graduated from USC. The chairman, known as Y.H. to his American friends, is on the USC board of trustees.
At LAX, Korean Air is the busiest Asian carrier, with six departures a day, all of them operated on jumbo jets such as the Boeing 747 and 777 wide-body aircraft.
Next year, the airline expects to be the first Asian carrier to operate the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet, at LAX.
Despite a global downturn in air travel, Korean Air is one of the few foreign carriers that have been adding flights, particularly at LAX, as it has expanded its marketing to Chinese and American passengers flying to Asia.
In an interview with The Times this week, Cho, the Korean Air chairman, said the airline had anticipated the economic downturn and began building up its cash reserves more than a year ago.
"We expected some problems and we prepared by accumulating cash," Cho said, adding that the airline also began expanding to emerging markets in Eastern Europe and Africa.
While the number of South Korean travelers fell 20% last year, overall passenger traffic increased, he said.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Replacing the Wilshire Grand
What: A 1.75-million- square-foot office, hotel, condominium and retail development located in two skyscrapers, one 60 stories and one 40 stories
Where: A 2.7-acre block at Wilshire Boulevard and Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles, site of the 1950s-era Wilshire Grand hotel and office complex
Who: The property is owned by Korean Air and would be developed by Thomas Properties Group
When: Construction is projected to begin in 2011, with completion in 2014
What: A subsidiary of shipping conglomerate Hanjin Group, the airline is the busiest Asian carrier at LAX
Background: The airline operates 124 aircraft and flies to 116 cities in 39 countries
When: Formed in 1969, it began flying two years later as a cargo carrier transporting wigs from Seoul to Los Angeles
Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea