Samsung Electronics apologised Friday to
workers who developed cancer after
working at some of its factories, finally
ending a decade-long dispute at the world’s
top chipmaker.
Campaign groups said that about 240
people have suffered from work-related
illnesses after being employed at Samsung
semiconductor and display factories, with
around 80 of them — many of them young
women — dying.
The father of a dead 22-year-old worker
and the company’s co-president Kim Ki-nam
signed a formal settlement agreement in
Seoul as other disabled ex-employees
looked on.
“We sincerely apologise to the workers
who suffered from illness and their
families,” said the firm’s co-president Kim
Ki-nam. “We have failed to properly manage
health risks at our semiconductor and LCD
Samsung Electronics is the world’s biggest
mobile phone manufacturer and chipmaker
and the flagship subsidiary of the Samsung
Group, by far the biggest of the family-
controlled conglomerates that dominate the
South’s economy.
Samsung currently operates vast
semiconductor production compounds in
Suwon as well as the cities of Hwaseong
and Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, as well as
Xian in China.
Under a deal announced earlier this month,
Samsung Electronics will pay the group’s
employees compensation of up to 150
million won ($133,000) per case.
It covers 16 types of cancer, some other
rare illnesses, miscarriages and congenital
diseases suffered by the workers’ children.
Claimants can have worked at plants as far
back as 1984.
The scandal emerged in 2007 when former
workers at its semiconductor and display
factories in Suwon, south of Seoul, and their
families said that staff had been diagnosed
or died of various forms of cancer.
A series of rulings and decisions by courts,
Seoul’s state labour welfare agency and a
mediation committee followed over more
than 10 years, culminating in Friday’s
Hwang Sang-ki, who signed the agreement
on behalf of the workers and their families,
told reporters he was glad to have fulfilled
his promise to his daughter, who died of
leukaemia in 2007, to prove Samsung was
to blame for her death.
But he went on: “The apology honestly was
not enough for the families of the victims
but we will accept it.
“No amount of apology will be enough to
heal all the insults, the pain of industrial
injuries and the suffering of losing one’s
“I cannot forget the pain she and our family
went through. Too many people have
suffered the same fate.”
Little is known about possible connections
between the production process in the
factories and the workers’ illnesses, as
Samsung has refused to disclose what
specific chemical substances it uses,
describing the information as a trade
Hwang and other relatives have sought a
court order to compel it to release the
“Compensation for industrial injury is
important, but what’s more important is
prevention,” said Hwang, whose story was
made into a movie in 2013.
Samsung has played a key part in the
South’s rise to become the world’s 11th-
largest economy, but it is also the focus of
resentment over the power and influence
of the chaebols and has faced accusations
of murky political connections.
Its de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was found
guilty of bribing former president Park
Geun-hye as part of the corruption scandal
that brought her down, and he spent
almost a year in prison before most of his
convictions were overturned on appeal and
he was released.
The cancer scandal is one of the worst
instances of industrial injuries in the South,
where safety standards sometimes belie its
advanced technological status.
Two months ago, two subcontractors were
killed in a carbon dioxide leak at Samsung
Electronics’ Suwon chip plant.
In January, four workers suffocated due to
a gas leak at a steel factory owned by Posco
— the country’s top steelmaker — in the
southern city of Pohang.

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