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Samsung apologizes to victims of work-related illnesses, promises compensation

The apology and compensation come 11 years after a Samsung employee on the chip production line died of leukemia.

Published onNovember 26, 2018

  • During a press conference, Samsung apologized to victims of work-related diseases.
  • Samsung also said it will unconditionally accept the result of an earlier mediation, which included compensation for affected families.
  • The apology originated from a 2007 death of a Samsung chip production line employee.

Even though Cyber Monday deals are currently making headlines, Samsung also made headlines for the wrong reasons. Yonhap News Agency reported that Samsung has apologized for the illnesses and deaths of some of its workers at its computer chip and display factories.

In South Korea, Samsung Electronics chief executive Kim Ki-nam said the company “failed to take care of the matter earlier.” Kim also said, “Samsung Electronics also did not fully and completely manage potential health risks at our chip and liquid-crystal display production lines.”

“Today, we wish to express a sincere apology to the workers who suffered from diseases, as well as their families,” Kim added.

The apology comes at the end of a 10-year standoff between Samsung and the Supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS). Hwang Sang-ki founded SHARPS after his daughter died from leukemia in 2007 while working on a Samsung chip production line.

Since then, SHARPS estimates roughly 200 employees contracted diseases related to their work on Samsung’s production lines. Out of those 200 employees, 70 are thought to have died from their illnesses which ranged from brain tumors to leukemia.

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Samsung and SHARPS began mediation in 2014, but negotiations ended without a settlement. At the time, Samsung tried to make amends with its own compensation plan for Hwang Sang-ki’s family and other factory employees who suffered diseases linked to chemical exposure. SHARPS continued to protest over the years until talks resumed earlier this year.

As part of the agreement between Samsung and SHARPS, Samsung will issue a compensation package of up to 150 million Korean won (~$130,000) per illness. The compensation package would also cover miscarriages and congenital illnesses in workers’ children.

Samsung said it will unconditionally accept the result of the mediation, donate 50 billion Korean won (~$44.3 million) to the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, and have a third-party agency start doling out the compensation packages by the end of 2018. However, Samsung has until October 31, 2028, to fully pay out the compensation.

The agreement does not indicate an end to all of this, however. In its apology, Samsung did not acknowledge its workplace conditions as a direct cause of its workers’ illnesses. Meanwhile, SHARPS claimed that workers from Samsung’s enterprise IT, battery, and electro-mechanics divisions have also been exposed to dangerous substances and might be affected by them.

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