Samsung signs deal to compensate factory cancer victims | News | DW | 23.11.2018
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Samsung signs deal to compensate factory cancer victims

Electronics giant Samsung has apologized for the illnesses and deaths of workers at some of its factories. The company agreed it had failed to manage health threats to employees who developed forms of cancer.

Hwang Sang-gi, a founding member of advocacy group Banolim, holds a picture of his daughter Yu-mi (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Young-joon)

Hwang Sang-gi founded an advocacy group for Samsung employees after his late daughter Yu-mi became ill

Samsung on Friday signed a settlement to compensate workers who developed cancer, admitting responsibility for security lapses at several factories.

The deal covers 16 types of cancer, other diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and miscarriages, as well as congenital conditions affecting workers' children. Samsung will be required to pay compensation of up to 150 million won ($130,000, €115,000) per case.

According to campaign groups, some 240 people have suffered from work-related illnesses after being employed on semiconductor and liquid crystal display production lines.

"We sincerely apologize to the workers who suffered from illness and their families," said Kim Ki-nam, Samsung's co-president. "We have failed to properly manage health risks at our semiconductor and LCD factories."

Read more: Samsung Securities raided over fat finger share issuance

The case related to employees who worked at factories in the cities of Suwon, Hwaseong, and Pyeongtaek, as well as Xian in China, as far back as 1984.

Father's quest for truth

The scandal emerged in 2007 when the Hwang Sang-gi, the father of a former worker, refused to sign a settlement over the death of his 23-year-old daughter, a Samsung employee who died of leukemia. Hwang Sang-gi said he was pleased to have fulfilled a promise to his daughter, Yu-mi, to prove that Samsung was to blame for her death.

Former Samsung worker Han Hye-kyung, denounces the company (picture-alliance/AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Campaigners say some 240 people have suffered from ilnesses as a result of working at Samsung factories

"No apology would be enough when considering the deception and humiliation we experienced over the past 11 years, the pain of suffering from occupational diseases, the pain of losing loved ones," Hwang said at a press conference, after formally signing the agreement on behalf of claimants.

Read more: Samsung looking for fresh growth opportunities

Hwang, a taxi driver, began the advocacy group Banolim, to campaign for affected workers, after learning that a 30-year-old worker on the same production line as his daughter had also died of leukemia.

"Compensation for industrial injury is important, but what's more important is prevention," said Hwang, whose family story was made into a 2013 film.

Trade secrecy

Little is known about the possible connection between production processes and the illnesses that employees developed. Samsung has refused to reveal the specific chemicals and amounts it uses in manufacturing, claiming it is a trade secret, although there have been moves toward greater transparency.

In 2016, Samsung agreed to the setting up of an external committee that would have oversight of safety at Samsung.

The technology firm has played a major role in South Korea's ascent to become the world's 11th largest economy. However, it has faced accusations of exploiting shadowy political connections.

De facto head of the firm, Lee Jae-yong, was embroiled in a major corruption scandal that toppled former South Korean President Park Geun- hye . He spent nearly a year in jail but was released after a number of convictions against him were overturned on appeal.

rc/sms (AFP, AP)

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