The Korea Herald


Activists demand that Samsung accept appellate ruling on workers' deaths

By 정주원

Published : Aug. 25, 2014 - 15:32

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A civic group on Monday called for Samsung Electronics Co. to take full responsibility and comply with an appellate court decision last week that held the tech giant liable for the leukemia deaths of two former production-line employees.

"Samsung should follow the court ruling and provide compensation as well as a sincere apology to the families of the victims, and come up with viable measures to prevent any more such deaths," the Protector of Health and Human Rights of Semiconductor Workers (SHARP), an advocacy group dealing with deaths and illnesses among Samsung Electronics employees, said in a press conference.

"Samsung has been stalling for time to silence the issue, and so far the number of workers suffering from work-related diseases has risen to 233," the group said. It claims that some 70 people have died of leukemia or brain tumors after being exposed to toxic chemicals at the company's memory chip or liquid crystal display panel manufacturing facilities.

The Seoul High Court on Thursday upheld a lower court's ruling that the electronics firm was responsible for the deaths of two former female workers. The Seoul Administrative Court in 2011 had made a landmark ruling that sided with the bereaved families of both women, recognizing the deaths as work-related for the first time.

One of the two female employees, Hwang Yu-mi, died in 2007 at the age of 23 due to acute myeloid leukemia after contracting the illness in 2005. She had previously worked for two years at Samsung's production line in Yongin, 49 kilometers south of Seoul.

The plant makes wafers for semiconductors.

The other victim, surnamed Lee, had worked for 10 years at the same factory before dying of the same type of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 30.

After years of shirking responsibility, Samsung officially apologized in May and offered to negotiate with the families of some of the victims and pay compensation.

"Samsung CEO Kwon Oh-hyun did offer an apology, but this was merely a stunt for the media, and we feel that the company's biding for more time reflects a huge lack of sincerity on its part," the group said, alluding to the fact that not much progress has been made since.

The civic group also said the latest ruling is still unsatisfactory as the deaths of three other leukemia patients were ruled as not work-related, with the court citing a lack of evidence to verify that the amount of toxins the victims had been exposed to were enough to cause their cancer.

"We feel this ruling is somewhat problematic in that the court requested from the bereaved families more evidence from documents the company refused to disclose, and thus are impossible for us to retrieve," SHARP said.

"While last week's court decision was indeed a breakthrough for the two female workers Hwang and Lee, we are still regretful that the court was unable to say the same for the three other victims," the group added. (Yonhap)