`My son was worked to death`

  • Published : Apr 9, 2010 - 16:00
  • Updated : Apr 9, 2010 - 16:00
The Korean branch of a leading U.S. multinational company may face a lawsuit after an intern died from a heart attack while working late at the firm.
The father of the intern, identified by his family name Moon, told The Korea Herald that he will file a lawsuit seeking damages.
Saying his son was fit and healthy, Moon said the heart attack was caused by overwork and stress from the competitive internship. "I`m preparing a lawsuit. The company has been very cold about the accident," he said.
The firm said it believes the young man`s death is not an industrial accident, saying he worked there for only 17 days.
The 28-year-old collapsed while sitting at his desk at 10:40 p.m. on July 19, police said. News of the incident did not become public until recently.
The National Institute of Scientific Investigation, which conducted the autopsy, determined that the cause of death was "sudden cardiac attack."
"The sudden death ... can be induced by putting stress on your body physically and mentally: mental agitation, overwork, labor, excessive drinking, overeating etc," it wrote.
Moon`s father said, "He did not suffer any diseases. Neither did he smoke nor drink."
He said that his son was under a lot of stress to be selected as a full-time employee at the company. The company recruits regular employees through an internship program and the competition is fierce. Moon, a graduate of the prestigious Yonsei University, was one of 20 people who landed the internship among 3,200 applicants.
"He left home at 6 p.m. and came back at night. He really wanted to get the job."
He said he decided to take the case to court because he was "frustrated by the company`s chilly reaction towards the incident."
Going to court, he said, was not his initial intention. "I did not want to sue over my dead son. But the company acted as if it were not responsible for the incident. They showed up at the funeral, but they did not contact us then for over a month. Although they work for a U.S. firm, they are still Koreans. They are supposed to understand the sentiment of Koreans. That is not the way you treat people," he said.
"I`m not fighting because of money."
But Choi Byung-wook, associate director of the company`s external relations department, told The Korea Herald, "In our judgment, it does not seem to be death from overwork. But the government will decide whether or not it was an industrial accident. We will provide as much support as we possibly can."
The intern`s death has highlighted the competition in the nation`s tight job market. Even internships are very competitive as it is a stepping stone to landing a job. The competition rate for summer internships this year at Loreal Korea was 50; 1 while it was 135:1 at SK Communications, according to a survey by a job portal website
"I know how hard it is. I felt heart-broken when I first heard the news," a person, who did an internship at the company, told The Korea Herald on condition of anonymity.

By Jin Hyun-joo