Another Samsung woman worker has lost her life to an occupational disease, the existence of which her employer still denies, and on which her government has turned its back.
Yun Seul-ki, 32 years old, died of aplastic anemia, the condition that she has been struggling for 13 years since she was 18.
Yun was taken to hospital last month, after experiencing necrosis of more than 70 percent of her hip joint. Her death marks her as the 56th Samsung victim and the fourth in this year.
In November 1999, the 18-year-old Yun collapsed on the cleanroom floor, where for the previous five months she had been cutting chemically glazed liquid crystal display (LCD) panels. In December of that year, diagnosed with aplastic anemia, she was asked to leave the job.
In the cleanroom of Samsung Electronics’ plant in the city of Chonan, the only protective gear that stood between her and hazardous chemicals were thin cotton gloves. With bare eyes, she inspected the panels for cracks and cut them into size. She said the room was always full of glass dust and chemical odors.
Yun lived through her twenties, helped by frequent blood transfusions. She and her mother relied on $400-a-month government handouts for poor families. Chronic poverty meant that she stood little chance of finding a marrow donor.
In April 2012, Samsung Electronics spun off the LCD unit, where Yun was employed, into a separate company, Samsung Display Co. The spinoff is already the world’s biggest LCD maker.
Yun did not have a family history of blood disorder. She passed the mandatory physical and medical exam performed on prospective employees at Samsung.
It just took a healthy young girl less than six months at Samsung to become fatally ill. It pains us to ask how long and how many deaths it will take for Samsung and the South Korean government to act to put an end to the tragedy wrought on the young workers and their families.
As of March 2012, SHARPS has profiled 155 workers who contracted various forms of leukemia, multiple sclerosis and aplastic anemia after employment in the electronics industry in South Korea.
As of June 2, 2012, of the 155, 63 have died. The majority of the workers, 138, were employed at Samsung Electronics, Samsung Electro-Mechanics and Samsung SDS—the three electronics affiliates of the Samsung Group, the country’s largest conglomerate. Among the 63 deaths were 56 Samsung employees.