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Victims dismiss expanded Oxy RB compensation plan

Household products company Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, which has been blamed for the largest number of victims from the use of toxic humidifier disinfectants, released an expanded compensation plan for victims over the weekend.

The victims and their families, however, remain opposed to the plan, saying the additional compensation still neglects victims with relatively less damage and overlooks different causes of death allegedly caused by the products.

In a closed-door meeting attended by some 150 victims and their families in Seoul on Sunday, RB Korea’s representative director Ataur Rashid Safdar said the company -- formally renamed Reckitt Benckiser Korea in 2014 -- would increase the amount of compensation to 350 million won ($296,000) to victims classified in categories one and two, in addition to the originally proposed 150 million won.

The plan was offered after the third round of talks with victims and their families since May.

Victims and the families of victims of the toxic humidifier disinfectants enter a meeting with Oxy Reckitt Benckiser in Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap)
Victims and the families of victims of the toxic humidifier disinfectants enter a meeting with Oxy Reckitt Benckiser in Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap)
The company would also provide 1 billion won in compensation for the deaths of infant and child victims.

The adjustment to compensation cost was to “console the agony of not only the victims, but also their family members.”

“(The new plan was proposed) to understand the grave loss of father, loss of caregiver and mother,” according to RB Korea.

The company also vowed to provide victims with lifelong medical treatment by calculating the amount of income that a victim would have been able to make if not affected by the toxic humidifier. It also added the company would actively execute the compensation plan before the victims go through hassles to file damage report to receive compensation.

However, victims and their families remained bitterly opposed to the new plan.

They demanded the new compensation plan be applied to all victims, including those classified under categories three and four.

As of May, there were 309 victims of toxic humidifier disinfectants classified in categories three and four. There were 221 victims in categories one and two. The scale goes from one to four, with the lowest being highly certain that health damage came from the use of humidifier disinfectants. According to the government, those who suffered lung-related diseases are confirmed as category one or two victims, while those with other respiratory-related diseases fall into categories three and four.

Victims and their families also argued that the compensation scheme still fails to address different kinds of cases of deaths and the suffering of victims, such as a mother who lost her life from using Oxy’s product while she was pregnant.

The prosecution probe into the toxic humidifier disinfectant tragedy is nearing its end, but victims and their families have said that RB Korea is trying to wrap up the incident by proposing a “still incomplete” compensation plan.

“RB Korea’s move (of proposing a new compensation plan) seems like an effort to end the situation as quickly as possible as the prosecution investigation nears the end,” said Lee Ye-do, a family member of the victim.

“We have waited for five years to see whether we could get compensated. Why is RB Korea in such a hurry to conclude everything so soon?” asked another family member of the victim.

The prosecution said last week that the five-month investigation into toxic humidifier disinfectants would come to an end, with charges being pressed against some 20 people related to the incident. The subjected companies include Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, Lotte Mart, Home Plus and Cefu.

RB Korea said that it had formed a task force team to process the compensation payment and complete the payment to the victims by the end of this year. It added that there are no more planned rounds of official meetings with victims and their families.

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)
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