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Samsung Display joins move to halt disclosure of workplace reports

Samsung Display, the display unit of South Korean tech giant Samsung Group, said Friday that it has filed an administrative suit at the Daejeon District Court seeking to nullify the government’s order to disclose workplace assessment reports on the firm’s production plant.

The display maker confirmed that it had filed the suit on April 17, challenging the Ministry of Employment and Labor’s mandate to publicize assessment reports on its production facility in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, on the grounds that the reports contain key trade secrets that must not be leaked.

Samsung Display’s legal measures follow in the footsteps of Samsung Electronics, which has been taking identical steps to prevent the disclosure of workplace assessment reports on the company’s memory chip and smartphone production lines.

A flag bearing the Samsung logo (AFP-Yonhap)
A flag bearing the Samsung logo (AFP-Yonhap)

Previously, Samsung Display had also approached the Central Administrative Appeals Commission to nullify the Labor Ministry’s order and to delay all disclosures until a decision is reached. The request for a delay was accepted earlier this week.

The firm is awaiting a decision from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Commerce on whether the assessment reports in question contain key technological trade secrets that should not be disclosed publicly in the national interest.

Samsung Display’s actions came after a former company worker, a female surnamed Kim, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. She had worked at the company’s production line for three years.

The worker filed a lawsuit, and a petition at the Labor Ministry, seeking to make Samsung Display’s reports public, claiming she can then prove the disease was caused by persistent exposure to the toxic chemicals used at the production lines.

In March, a local branch of the Labor Ministry in Cheonan ordered that the reports from 2007 and 2008 be publicized, with personal information removed from the content.

But the company had refused to do so, saying that proprietary information included in the documents, if revealed to rivals, could undermine its competitiveness and damage Korea’s display business.

Similarly, Samsung Electronics has been fighting the disclosure orders citing reasons similar to those cited by Samsung Display.

Samsung Electronics filed an administrative suit at the Suwon District Court and also approached the Central Administrative Appeals Commission on the issue, both of which have ruled in favor of Samsung’s stance as of this week.

The Commerce Ministry has also determined that Samsung’s reports do contain key information on technologies -- including DRAM chips, NAND flash and telecommunications facilities -- that are banned from being revealed to foreign companies or organizations.

The ministry’s decision does not have binding force to stop the disclosure, but can be used as a reference in courts.

Samsung Electronics’ current disclosure dispute is linked to a case from 2014, in which a former company worker, surnamed Lee, died of leukemia after working for more than 20 years at its chip manufacturing lines.

The family members of the deceased had filed a petition with the Labor Ministry and a lawsuit at the Daejeon District Court asking that the reports be made public so they can prove the disease was caused by continued exposure to toxins at the firm’s production site.

By Sohn Ji-young(