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Lee Eun-joo’s mentally handicapped mother holds the portrait of her daughter at the funeral.  Lee was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2000, after six years of working at a Samsung chip lab.  She died in 2012.  Lee’s father became incapacitated from work due to an injury he sustained in a workplace accident when she was a young girl.   

Seoul’s higher court that has upheld a lower court ruling in favor of posthumous workers compensation payouts for a Samsung employee built its case upon Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s own data, SHARPS has learned.

Occupationally Caused Cancer

On July 7, 2017, the court ruled in favor of workers comp benefits for the bereft family of Lee Eun-joo, the former Samsung employee who died of ovarian cancer in 2012, confirming the lower court ruling that her cancer was occupationally caused.  Lee was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, after six years of gluing together silicon wafers with formaldehyde lead at a Samsung lab where she had worked since the age of seventeen.

Subpoena

The lower-court decision was crucial because it concluded that the KOSHA’s epidemiological survey was insufficiently comprehensive.  The probe turned up a variety of carcinogens and other hazards but failed to link any of them conclusively to Lee’s cancer.

The higher court went further in seeking from Samsung  the data it collected as part of its own compensation scheme.  “Samsung had to comply with the court’s request,” said Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’s in-house legal counsel.

“They knew they would be otherwise subpoenaed,” Lim added, pointing to another lawsuit. In Dec. 2016, after several rejections of its request by Samsung, the court finally issued a subpoena to the company for the data it was presumed to have collected on occupational diseases.

Ten in 165

Samsung’s own data rounded out the horrific picture of its occupational disease cluster.  As of Dec. 2016, ten out of a total of its 165 payout seekers were victims of ovarian cancer, according to court documents.  The ratio is twice as high as SHARPS’s own data, which include only seven victims of ovarian cancer out of a total of 230 former Samsung employees it has profiled.

National Statistics 

The court established the work-relatedness of Lee’s cancer by citing national statistics of ovarian cancer.  “The standardization incidence rate of ovarian cancer is 5.7 in every 100,000,” said the court.  “The same rate for women in their 20s is about 2.5 in every 100,000.”

Burden of Proof

The higher court also reaffirmed the low court’s position:  work-relatedness should be more broadly established in ways not disadvantageous to claimants when it is difficult to clearly determine the cause of ovarian cancer and other rare diseases.  “It can be inferred that work-relatedness can be established when medically or historically proven causes or factors of the disease are proven to exist in the claimant’s working environment,” the court said.

Finally, the court pointed to the unfairness of the imposition of the burden of proof upon workers in their claims for workers compensation.  “In the light of the purpose of workers compensation,” the court said.  “It is against equity and conscience to put the burden of proof on workers who are poorly positioned [in society].”

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

torrential rain

SHARPS’s sit-in canopy in torrential rain, July 7, 2017.

 

 

Yieunjufather

An anguished Lee Hae-cheol broke in tears in April 2013 when he filed for workers compensation posthumously for her deceased daughter, Lee Eun-joo.  She died of ovarian cancer in 2012, after six years of working at a Samsung chip lab.  The father is also a victim of a workplace accident.  On July 7, 2017, Seoul’s higher court upheld a lower-court ruling in favor of Lee’s claim.

SHARPS has scored two legal wins in a single day, achieving new momentum in its ongoing effort to hold Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd accountable for the occupational disease cluster.

Samsung LCD and Leukemia

On July 7, the KCOMWEL approved a workers compensation claim filed by a former Samsung worker, confirming that she fell victim to chronic myelogenous leukemia as a result of working at Samsung’s LCD lab.

This is the first such acknowledgement by the workers compensation agency for a worker employed in LCD production.

The 33-year-old claimant, identified only by her last name Kim at her request, began to do color filter processing as an apprentice at the LCD plant in 2002 when she was only eighteen years old.  Color filter processing involves benzene, formaldehyde, ionizing radiation, electromagnetic fields, and similar hazards.  Kim said she was exposed to these hazards with little protective gear.

By 2008, after the five years and seven months of chemical exposure and frequent night shifts, she succumbed to chronic fatigue, irregular periods, and infertility, which led to her resigning from the job.  Two years later, in 2010, she was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia.  Kim was only twenty-four years old.

Onetime and Skewed

In Oct. 2014, she filed a claim for workers compensation.  In response, in 2015-2017, the KOSHA conducted an epidemiological probe of her workplace, which it said only turned up immaterial work-relatedness.

The probe was skewed in Samsung’s favor as the KOSHA complied with the company’s request and did not allow Kim’s or her legal counsel’s presence during the probe.   This meant Samsung only showed the KOSHA investigators what it wanted to show.

On June 23, 2017, a seven-member evaluation committee reversed its earlier decision and decided in favor of Kim’s claim by a 5-2 margin.  “Although it showed low work-relatedness,” said the committee, “this onetime epidemiological survey is insufficient to determine the routine and continual exposure [of hazardous materials] sustained by the claimant.”

On July 7, 2017, the KCOMWEL officially informed Kim of the decision.

Higher Win

On the same day, Seoul’s higher court upheld a lower court decision in favor of posthumous workers comp benefits for Lee Eun-joo.  Lee died of ovarian cancer in 2012, more than ten years after her first diagnosis.  She was diagnosed with the cancer in 2000, after six years of gluing together silicon wafers with formaldehyde lead at a Samsung lab where she began to work at the age of seventeen.

The lower-court ruling was the first of its kind as it tied the work-relatedness of Lee’s cancer to working conditions at Samsung’s chip lines.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

 

CaptureDocum

Stories from the Cleanroom, a new documentary on Samsung’s occupational-disease, cluster on June 20 premiered at S. Korea’s National Assembly.  The film centers on about 20  victims and their families.

A new documentary on the agonies of victims of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s blood-disorder cluster has chosen an unusual venue for its premiere:  South Korea’s National Assembly hall.

On June 20, 2017 the new film, Stories from the Cleanroom, had its premiere, hosted by the euljiro committee, a caucus of young legislators of the ruling Minjoo Party that focuses on labor and small-business issues.

Stories from the Cleanroom, produced jointly by SHARPS and the anti-toxic waste global network IPEN, features twenty separate interviews with infirm victims and their next-of-kin as well as families of the deceased ones.

An excerpt of the film is available here.

Intense Film

For Samsung’s cluster victims, the word “cleanroom” is something of a misnomer because such rooms were designed to keep clean the electronic components they assembled while the workers are exposed to toxic chemicals.  The same is true of their cleansuits designed to keep the products dirt-free, not humans who make them.

Some victims and surviving family members attended the premiere, which was followed by a panel discussion with three lawmakers of euljiro.

“The film itself is intense,” said Joseph DiGangi, senior science and technical adviser with the IPEN, who attended the premiere on the organization’s behalf.  “Imagine sitting in a room full of former workers and surviving family members who appear in the film while watching it in a quiet dark room with people sniffing and wiping their eyes.”

Stunning Premiere

“The premiere stunned the lawmakers,” added DiGangi. “The National Assembly location gave it a gravitas that increased the impact even more.”

After ten years of campaigning, on May 8, SHARPS prized open the gate of the country’s legislature as the then-would ruling Minjoo Party agreed to a four-point policy framework urging Samsung to resume dialogue with the advocacy group.

While the framework was the first-ever pledge by the ruling party on Samsung’s negligence in workers safety, it is also true that it was led by euljiro, a tiny faction, during the election cycle.

“The Minjoo Party and euljiro will be with you,” Lee Hack-young, an euljiro lawmaker said in a tweet after the premiere, “recognizing that human life is more important than corporate profit.”

There is little reason for SHARPS to ratchet down the pressure on the new ruling party which has a mixed record at best on disciplining Samsung and other big corporations.

An English-subtitled version of Stories from the Cleanroom will be available by August 2017.

Stolen Donation Box

On June 23 night, a donation box at SHARPS’s sit-in was stolen.  SHARPS called police, who said they would check CCTV footage in the area.  Samsung’s own CCTVs watch the sit-in from every possible angle, and its security guards set points around SHARPS’s canopy. 

Samsung would unlikely assist the police’s investigations.  However, you can help SHARPS.  You can wire your donations to the following account:

Account Holder:  SHARPS

Account Holder’s Contact Number: 82 2 3496 5067

Bank: Kookmin Bank

Bank Address: 64-140 Sadang 2Dong, Seoul, 156-814, Korea

Account Number: 043901-04-206831

SWIFT Code: CZNBKRSE

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

KimMi

The KCOMWEL has appeal a court order to grant workers compensation to Kim Mi-seon (in the picture), a former Samsung employee suffering from multiple sclerosis, while it recently decided to not appeal a decision in favor of workers comp claims by  another former Samsung employee who fell victim to the same condition.

South Korea’s workers compensation agency has decided against appealing a higher-court order to grant workers compensation benefits to a Samsung cluster victim, a rare move for the agency which often does not approve workers comp claims until claimants exhaust their legal recourse.

Window To Appeal

As of June 17, the KCOMWEL passed up a three-week window to appeal a May 26 higher-court ruling that reversed a lower court decision and ordered the agency to approve workers compensation for Lee So-jeong ( a pseudonym at her request).  The 33-year-old former chip-line operator of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. fell victim to multiple sclerosis in 2008, about three years after she resigned from the company where she began to work at the age of 19.

Six Years of Waiting

The KCOMWEL’s procrastination and the ensuing courtroom tit-for-tat meant that Yi had to wait for six years to receive workers compensation for the condition of which she had no family history and that is so rare that it only affects 3.5 in every 100,000 Koreans.

Samsung is an enabler of the KCOMWEL’s negligence as it routinely withholds information on chemicals used in chip production on the pretext of trade secrecy.  Regulators and courts often remain complacent even as years of procedural and legal runaround frequently ruin already-vulnerable cluster victims financially and emotionally.

Victim of Bureaucratic Runaround

The case in point:  Kim Mi-seon, is a 37-year-old former Samsung worker and a victim of multiple sclerosis.  In Feb. 2017, the KCOMWEL appealed a ruling in favor of her workers comp claims.  Her earlier legal victory could have been a landmark.  Kim was the first victim from Samsung’s LCD unit to have successfully claimed workers comp, after, in 2012-2014, the agency and the court denied three co-workers workers comp.

Now wheelchair-ridden and legally blind, Kim has also imploded financially to the point that SHARPS had to organize an urgent fund drive in April-May of 2017 to help her to pay some of overdue medical expenses.

In Nov. 2014 and Jan. 2016, the workers comp agency appealed two separate rulings in favor of two women victims assisted by SHARPS.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

 

Ipen

Source: IPEN website

 

Five global worker-safety advocacy groups have released a joint statement urging South Korea’s governing party to promptly act on its agreement with SHARPS.

“The recent framework agreement signed by the Minjoo Party and SHARPS provides key objectives for worker safety policies,” said the five groups in the joint statement on June 15, 2017, pointing to the framework agreement that the party and SHARPS signed on May 7, two days before Minjoo candidate Moon Jae-in won the presidency in a snap election.

Act now

“We encourage the Minjoo Party to begin work to concretize this framework as soon as possible,” said the groups, led by the IPEN, a global anti-industrial waste network.  “In particular, point one dealing with the negotiations between SHARPS and Samsung should be addressed immediately.”

The following are full texts of the joint statement and the framework agreement:

To the Minjoo Party of Korea:

We represent international networks that have been focusing for many years on human rights, occupational health and environmental health in the global electronics industry. We stand in solidarity with SHARPS during their historic 600+ day sit-in at Samsung.

The recent framework agreement signed by the Minjoo Party and SHARPS (see below) provides key objectives for worker safety policies including right-to-know, protecting sub-contractor workers, and strengthening enforcement and penalties to increase corporate accountability.

We encourage the Minjoo Party to begin work to concretize this framework as soon as possible. In particular, point one dealing with the negotiations between SHARPS and Samsung should be addressed immediately to facilitate an appropriate solution to the issue of Samsung’s occupational disease issues which have been documented by SHARPS, in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, and in several UN reports submitted to the Human Rights Council. Comprehensive implementation of the Minjoo Party – SHARPs framework agreement could make a significant contribution to worker safety in the electronics industry and help advance global standards.

Signed,

Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) 

Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV)

GoodElectronics Network (GE)

International Campaign for Responsible Technology (ICRT)

IPEN

 

Minjoo Party – SHARPS Framework Agreement

  1. The Minjoo Party empathizes with SHARPS for taking issue with Samsung’s own compensation scheme and will put efforts into having negotiations resumed between Samsung and SHARPS in order to seek a rightful solution to the issue of Samsung worker’s occupational diseases.

  2. The Minjoo Party will put efforts into improving statutes that strengthen civil and criminal penalties against corporations for serious and/or frequent industrial accidents for employers and for covering up such accidents.

  3. The Minjoo Party will put efforts into preventing the outsourcing of risk by strengthening penalties for safety and public-health violations throughout the supply chain.

  4. The Minjoo Party will put efforts into developing a transparent disclosure process for hazardous chemicals to better hold employers accountable and to ensure employees’ right to know about their exposure to industrial safety risks.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues 

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

Sharron

On May 29, 2017, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC, spoke at a teach-in in front of SHARPS’s sit-in.

As SHARPS’ sit-in has surpassed the 600 day mark, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, visited the very site where families of Samsung’s cluster victims and SHARPS advocates have been squatting in protest of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. for scuppering negotiations.

Solidary of 180 Million Workers Worldwide

“Thanks for your amazing tenacity in holding this company [Samsung] to account,” Burrow greeted SHARPS activists and supporters on May 29, 2017 evening, as SHARPS was about to wrap up the 601st day of its sit-in.  “I am bringing with me the solidarity of 180 million workers around the world.”

Corporate Empire Built on Lies

Burrow focused her 30-minute talk on Samsung’s vast global supply chains, which are plagued by rampant violations of labor and human rights.

“When you look at Samsung, it was, in fact, already based on lies,” the ITUC general secretary said, pointing to the ITUC’s findings: Samsung relies on multi-layered, complex supply chains to hire casual workforces globally.  Samsung said there were 320 thousand workers in its supply chains.  However, the ITUC found there were 1.5 million globally, many of them working on short-term contracts for sub-subsistence wages.

On May 30, in a meeting with South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, Burrow raised the issue of SHARPS with him, along with other major labor concerns regarding South Korea.

Higher Court:  Samsung Victim’s Multiple Sclerosis Is Occupationally Caused

In a rare turnaround, Seoul’s higher court reversed a lower-court decision and declared a Samsung victim’s multiple sclerosis occupationally caused.  The ruling was the first of its kind for an occupational-disease victim who worked at Samsung’s chip line.  Earlier in Feb. 2017, a lower court ruled a Samsung LCD worker’s multiple sclerosis was occupationally caused.

The Lack of Information

The victim, 33 year-old Lee So-jeong (a pseudonym at her request), began to work at Samsung’s semiconductor lab in 2003 when she was only 18 years old.  She resigned in 2005 as her health declined.  In 2008, she began to suffer from partial facial paralysis, which led to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

In 2013, after KCOMWEL rejected her workers compensation claim, citing the lack of information of chemicals involved and her short employment time, Lee filed an administrative lawsuit.  And the lower court reiterated KCOMWEL’s reasoning.

Samsung often frustrates legal proceedings by its occupational-disease victims by withholding information on chemical material on the pretext of trade secrecy.  And regulators and courts have to date remained complacent, allowing such maneuvers.

Capture

A new report  is now available for download on multiple methanol-caused vision losses at Samsung’s and LG’s supply chains.

New Report on Samsung’s and LG’s Supply Chains

Solidary for Workers’ Health, a Seoul-based labor health advocacy group, published an English-language report on methanol-caused vision-impairments that last year affected at least six of Samsung’s and LG Electronics’ subcontractor workers.

The report, The Blind—A Report on Methanol Poisoning Cases in Supply Changes for Samsung and LG Electronics in Korea can be downloaded in PDF at http://laborhealth.or.kr/43375.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues 

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

woowonshik

On May 7, SHARPS and the Minjoo Party agreed to a policy framework regarding Samsung’s occupational-disease cluster.

SHARPS and the party of South Korea’s Presidential frontrunner have agreed to a policy framework aimed at resolving the occupational disease cluster of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.—one of the most critical milestones in ten years of advocacy campaigning for more than 200 former Samsung employees contracted with a variety of blood disorders.

Four-Point Framework

On May 7, SHARPS and the Minjoo Party of Korea agreed to a four-point framework that incorporates SHARPS’s longstanding demands.  The following are the four points:

  1. The Minjoo Party empathizes with SHARPS for taking issue with Samsung’s own compensation scheme and will put efforts into having negotiations resumed between Samsung and SHARPS so to seek a rightful solution to the issue of Samsung’s occupational disease.

  2. The Minjoo Party will put efforts into improving statutes that strengthen civil and criminal penalties for corporations for serious and/or frequent industrial accidents for employers for covering up such accidents.

  3. The Minjoo Party will put efforts into preventing the outsourcing of risk by strengthening penalties for safety and public-health violations along the supply chain.

  4. The Minjoo Party will put efforts into developing a transparent disclosure process for hazardous chemicals to better hold employers accountable and to ensure employees’ right to know for exposure to industrial safety risks.

Ten Years

The agreement is of significant meaning.  It is the first of its kind that SHARPS has reached with a major political party.  In 2014, a small left-leaning Justice Party, in vain, attempted to mediate a deal for SHARPS with Samsung.

Moon Jae-in, Minjoo’s Presidential candidate, will likely be elected President in a snap election scheduled for May 9.  In recent years, SHARPS has been a favorite campaign destination for many Presidential hopefuls.  However, Moon is the first-ever major Presidential candidate that has signed a pledge with SHARPS regarding Samsung.

“It’s been ten years since I first met with Hwang Sang-ki, the father of the first known Samsung victim, Hwang Yu-mi,” said lawmaker Woo Won-shik, who signed the agreement on the party’s behalf.  “Moon has expressed his strong willingness to help SHARPS and Samsung resume dialogue.”

Hwang replied: “The new government must implement this agreement in good faith.”

“Samsung must promise sincere dialogue, a truthful apology, and comprehensive compensation,” Hwang concluded, reiterating SHARPS’s demands.

Turns and Twists

The would-be ruling party’s posturing toward Samsung and SHARPS has to date been erratic at most. Since 2013 the Minjoo Party, and its predecessor, released only one statement on SHARPS or Samsung’s cluster.

In 2016, the Minjoo Party recruited Yang Hyang-ja, Samsung’s 50-year-old woman executive, as a “female role model ”

Yang is something of a legend among many young women in South Korea as she has climbed up the corporate ladder at a male-dominated Samsung to a PhD, and  a job as R&D director from high-school graduate office secretary.

In March 2017, Yang was forced by a flurry of public criticism to make a public apology, after she, in a luncheon with reporters, branded SHARPS “professional protesters” and the independent Korean Confederation of Trade Unions labor aristocrats.

Non-binding

In all fairness, on March 13, Moon apologized to SHARPS for Yang’s remarks at a mass rally in Seoul, calling on all presidential candidates to pledge to improve public and workplace safety.

The agreement is non-binding—SHARPS would likely find little reason to let up on the pressure on Samsung, the government or elected officials.

MoonandHan.jpg

Moon Jae-in, Minjoo’s presidential candidate, met with Han Hye-kyung, a Samsung cluster victim at a mass rally in central Seoul on March 13.  Source:  Pressian.com

Repeat Tragedy

SHARPS’s latest political breakthrough came on the heels of yet another fatal accident at a Samsung plant.  On May 1, six workers were killed and more than 20 were injured when a mobile crane crashed into and felled a fixed crane at the shipyard of Samsung Heavy Industries Co. Ltd in Geoje, Korea.

All six fatalities were temporary workers.  The cause of the crash is still under investigation although eyewitnesses said the mobile crane operator, a regular employee, missed the signal by a temporary worker.

Repeat Negligence

Samsung bungled first-response efforts, according to an expose by independent news site The Voice of the People.  The company did not bring in government paramedics during the first hour of the accident, during which its own first responders failed to stop the hemorrhaging of a victim who eventually died.

Samsung Heavy Industries’ negligence is just a repeat of Samsung Electrics’ botched response to fatal gas leaks at its semiconductor lab about four years ago.

In January 2013,  Samsung used outsourced first-response teams to stem two separate leaks of Hydrofluoric acid at the chip lab in Hwaseong, Korea, which left one worker dead and four injured.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues 

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.