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Victims' group claims hundreds died from working at Samsung

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Published : 2014-08-18 14:46
Updated : 2014-08-18 14:49

Nearly 100 workers from Samsung factories are claimed to have died from work-related diseases such as leukemia, an activists' group said Monday, as negotiations with South Korea's largest conglomerate Samsung Group over accountability are at a standstill.

The Protector of Health and Human Rights of Semiconductor Workers (SHARP), an advocacy group representing the victims who fell ill or died while working at Samsung's plants, said it knows of 98 deaths from work-related diseases as of August, with a hundred more people getting medical treatment.

SHARP said 80 victims came from Samsung Electronics Co.; nine people from Samsung SDI Co., a battery producer; and eight others from Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co. An overwhelming majority of the victims from Samsung Electronics, 70, worked at factories that produce chips and liquid crystal displays (LCD), according to the group.

SHARP is the counterpart to Samsung Group in the ongoing talks to duly compensate workers who fell ill while or after working at affiliates of Samsung Group.

The most representative case, and one of the earlier ones, was that of Hwang Yu-mi, who died from leukemia in 2007. Her family says she contracted cancer because of her exposure to lethal chemicals at the chip-making facility in Giheung, just of Seoul, where she worked before becoming ill.

Other similar claims and cases have cropped up in the following years.

In May, shortly after the company chairman Lee Kun-hee was hospitalized due to a heart attack, Samsung Electronics officially apologized for the first time for the deaths and sufferings of its semiconductor workers and promised compensation. Since then, the company and SHARP have held negotiations every two weeks, but there has been no meaningful progress.

Rallying at the company headquarters in Seoul, SHARP reasserted that the world's No. 1 smartphone maker should take full responsibility for the workers' deaths, accusing the firm of not keeping its promise made in May.

Sources who are informed of the talks' progress said while Samsung insists that the talks should focus on compensating the eight victims who have come to the negotiations table, SHARP demands the negotiations should be more general to apply to other victims as well.

The talks have become mired even more, the sources said, as SHARP members are divided among themselves, expressing different opinions concerning the focus of the talks.

"If someone just repeats that he has apologized, that is not a sincere apology," said Hwang Sang-gi, father of the late Hwang.

Hwang Sang-gi called Kwon Oh-hyun, CEO of the electronics giant, a "trickster," saying Samsung has taken no actions since May to provide compensation or implement preventive measures to ensure a safe working environment.

In May, when asked if Samsung acknowledges any correlation between the illnesses and factory working conditions, a company spokesman said it is not "appropriate" to discuss the matter at the current stage.

SK hynix Inc., another local chipmaker, said last week it will expand inspections of its production facilities but took the stance that there are no scientific grounds to prove the link between semiconductor plant working conditions and the outbreak of diseases such as leukemia. (Yonhap)

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