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Torontostar

On Aug. 16, Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily, ran an AP expose on Samsung on the front page

 

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and the South Korean government have been appearing increasingly perturbed as AP investigative reports  on their collusive efforts to block the release of information critical to workers compensation petitions filed by the tech company’s occupational-disease victims spread worldwide.

AP Reports Ripple Out

On Aug 10, the AP reported that the South Korean government allowed Samsung to cite trade secret concerns to withhold information about on-the-job chemical exposure from at least six workers compensation petitioners who developed various forms of blood order after working at Samsung’s chip or LCD labs.

Separately, the U.S. news agency released a profile of some victims of Samsung’s blood disorder cluster and a video clip summing up the two reports.

The impact of the reports rippled across the world.  On Aug. 10, the Al Jazeera news network dispatched a report derived from the AP accounts. On Aug. 16, Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper by circulation, ran the AP pieces on the front page.

Samsung Grows Unsettled 

On Aug. 12, the AP, prodded by Samsung, ran the following correction:  “The Associated Press reported erroneously that a compensation plan the company offered covers some of the workers’ medical expenses. It covers all their medical expenses.”

The world’s largest tech company was just misleading.  Indeed, Samsung paid medical bills when former employees were successfully granted compensation for their sickness under its limited and divisive compensation scheme.  However, the company now uses its own undisclosed selection criteria for covering these recipients’ post-compensation medical expenses, said Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’s in-house legal counsel.

Perturbed by the AP reports, Samsung released two separate press statements on Aug. 10 and Aug. 13.

In the Aug. 10 statement, the company said, “even if a supplier cites trade secrets to withhold information, the chemical product provided to Samsung has been certified as not containing any toxic substance.”  Samsung did not just shift the blame to suppliers, but also blurred the fact that some chemicals used in chip production can react to each other to create toxic substances. This is why full disclosure of all chemicals is important.

In the Aug. 13 statement, the company attempted to justify destruction of the entrance logs of one of its cleanrooms, citing a lack of regulatory clarification on such destruction.

The destruction came in 2010, after attempts by the family of Sohn Kyung-joo, a 53-year-old Samsung contractor who died of leukemia a year earlier, to use the logs as evidence of his chemical exposure in his posthumous worker compensation proceedings.

With much information shrouded in secrecy, the daily records of ins and outs of cleanrooms could be major evidence for workers compensation cases.  The logs showed how often and long workers and contractors have stayed in the dirt-free chip labs, according to many accounts, limned with chemical smells.

Government’s Freudian Slip 

On Aug. 12, South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor denied the AP reports that it, at Samsung’s request, withheld the information.  “We designated the information in question as trade secret as defined under law,” said the labor ministry—accidentally admitting that it served Samsung when it should regulate the corporation in the interests of workers safety.

SHARPS’s Sit-in: 300 Days And Still Counting

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.

ITUC

In her blog post for The Huffington Post, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow criticized Samsung for worker abuse.

 

The Samsung conglomerate has medieval working conditions behind modern technology, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, summed up in her Huffington Post blog on Aug. 10, as she criticized the world’s largest technology company and its affiliates for poor working conditions.

Moral Compass

“Samsung is a business model that has lost its moral compass, based on exploitation and abuse of human rights at its supply chain,” said Burrow.

She announced that the ITUC has started a petition drive to end no-union policy and worker abuse at Samsung.

Petition Drive

The ITUC, based in Brussel,  is a leading voice of the world’s working people. The confederation represents 176 million workers through its 328 affiliated organizations within 162 countries and territories.

All are invited to sign the petition at http://act.ituc-csi.org/en/samsung

The following is a full text of the ITUC’s petition: 

Samsung: end worker abuse and abolish your “no-union” policy now

Samsung has a reputation for modern technology, but also a history of medieval conditions for the estimated 1,500,000 workers entrenched in a vast and shadowy web of subcontractors and subsidiaries that runs deep throughout the region. What’s more, the Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) reports that Samsung’s “no-union” policy affects the entire Asian electronics industry, “because Samsung Electronics intervenes actively to prevent the formation of unions at its suppliers.”

A leaked PowerPoint presentation — intended for the eyes of corporate bosses only — decrees specific “countermeasures” to be used to “dominate employees.” And the language is shocking. The leaked material instructs managers to: “isolate employees,” “punish leaders,” and “induce internal conflicts.” And that’s just corporate policy. AMRC reports instances of grave abuse, where Samsung “tapped workers’ phones, followed them, and approached their families with threats.”

With a precariously-employed workforce, inhumane conditions are rife. According to China Labor Watch, employees at Samsung factories, some under-aged, suffer through 100 hours of forced overtime per month, unpaid work, standing for 11 to 12 hours, verbal and physical abuse, severe age and gender discrimination, lack of worker safety… During a three-month period while the Samsung Galaxy tablet was being rushed out, one worker testified that she: “slept about two or three hours a night,” and had to stop breastfeeding her three-month-old infant to keep up with schedule.

Samsung is everywhere. If you have a smartphone — an Android or iPhone — there’s a good chance that parts in your phone are produced on factory floors controlled by Samsung and its affiliated companies. Now it’s up to all of us to tell Samsung this must stop now.

SHARPS’s Sit-in: 300 Days And Still Counting

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.

 

 

APCapture

The Associated Press’s Big Story, an in-depth and investigative section, ran two separate stories on Samsung and its occupational-disease victims in eight months’ time.

South Korean authorities have repeatedly complied with Samsung Electronics Co.’s requests and refused to release critical data about chemicals, which could be used to prove the work-relatedness of the illnesses of at least six former Samsung workers who have been seeking workers compensation, the Associated Press on Aug 10 reported in its investigative reporting section, The Big Story.

Guarding Trade Secrets Against Human Life

Both the government and Samsung have cited “trade secrets” for not giving up the information, according to the AP.  “Court documents and interviews with government officials, workers’ lawyers and their families show Samsung often cites the need to protect trade secrets when it asks government officials not to release such data,” said the news agency.

Although South Korea’s law does not allow the government to withhold the release of corporate information critical to individuals’ lives, physical safety and health, the AP pointed out, any such violation does not carry a penalty.

“Government officials openly say corporate interests take priority, that evaluating trade-secrets claims is difficult,” the AP added, “and that they fear being sued for sharing data against a company’s will.”

KOSHA’s Clients

In an interview with the AP, Yang Won-baek, of the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, used the term “clients” to describe corporations.  Asked by the AP why he used that word, Yang answered he treats the companies that his agency is mandated to regulate “as I treat clients.”   “[T]he companies KOSHA evaluates also review the agency, and the finance ministry considers those reviews when it sets agency budgets,” Yang told the AP.

“Since 2008, 56 workers have applied for occupational safety compensation from the government,” said the AP, citing SHARPS’s data.  “Only 10 have won compensation, most after years of court battles. Half of the other 46 claims were rejected and half remain under review.”

AP’s Big Story

The latest report on Samsung and its occupational-disease victims is a second dispatch in eight months for the AP’s in-depth investigative section.  The first report was released on Dec. 11, 2016.

SHARPS’s Sit-in: 300 Days And Still Counting

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.

image (6)

A daily log of the sit-in written on Aug. 10, 2015 by Hwang Sang-ki, a 61-year-old taxi driver and the father of Yumi, the first publicly known victim of Hwang Yu-mi.  In the log, Hwang, also a SHARPS founder, said, “We make money, work and make semiconductors in order to live. However, Samsung’s Lee Kun-hee and Jae-yong  only make money at any cost–without taking any responsibility or showing any guilt feelings–although [their own] workers have died of cancer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As of Aug. 1, 2016, SHARPS has marked the 300th day of a sit-in that the advocacy group began on Oct. 7, 2015, after Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. walked out of negotiations with them and imposed its own rules on occupational-disease victims who, often out of financial and emotional desperation, sought quick compensation from the company.

On July 28, to mark the 300th day milestone, SHARPS activists and Samsung cluster victims held a rally at Samsung D’light, the company’s exhibition space, in south Seoul, where they have erected impromptu shrines for victims and been encamped for nearly a year.

“Our Children Are Now Gone”

Seoul’s humid heat waves, the hottest in two decades, could not diminish the spirits of more than 200 participants rallying with SHARPS.  The rally showed that SHARPS’ advocacy has emerged as the source of inspiration for those who have lost their next-of-kin to corporations that put profits ahead of people and a government that prioritizes corporations over people.

“Our children are now gone,” Jeong Bu-ja, mother of one of the 365 high school students having drowned in a sunken ship MV Sewol in April 2014 because of the government’s bungled rescue efforts, said at the rally.

“However, for our deceased children, the facts must be known in their entirety,” she added, pointing to Samsung’s cover-up of the cluster, and the government’s meddling in independent investigations of the Sewol accident.

Infants and Their Mothers

Choi Ye-yong, director of Asian Citizen’s Center for Environment and Health, spoke at the rally.  His public advocacy is campaigning for about 4,500 victims of a humidifier sterilizer marketed exclusively in South Korea by Oxy-Reckitt Benckiser.  The UK multinational had for over almost a decade concealed the fatal hazards of the disinfectant with the connivance of corrupt government officials and academics.

“As of today, we have recorded 4,500 cases,” said Choi.  “Among them, 780, or 19 percent, died [of pulmonary conditions],” he said. “Most of the deceased are infants under three years old or mothers in their 30s.”

“Samsung Can’t Bring My Health Back”

A cluster victim also spoke.  “Will an apology by Samsung bring back my health? It won’t,” Han Hye-kyung, 38 years old, a former Samsung LCD-line operator, now partially paralyzed after brain tumors, said in a stammering voice. “But Samsung must apologize to prevent additional victims.”

The sit-in will continue, with SHARPS calling for Samsung to:
1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and
2) make a sincere and full apology.

 

A young male worker has died from the effects of a rare blood disorder, after almost four years of routine night-shift work, overtime and chemical exposure at a Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. supplier with extended-family ties to the tech giant’s founding family.

Long Hours With Unknown Chemicals

The 32-year-old worker, Yi Chang-oun died on Aug. 3, about nine months after his diagnosis with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  Between January 2012 and October 2015, Yi mixed chemicals unknown to him to make cleaners and moisture-proof insulators at the Wanju plant of Hansol Chemical  Co., Ltd.  for Samsung’s organic light-emitting diode operations in China.

Over the 45 months, Yi often worked the night shift.  He routinely worked more than 12 hours a day and more than 100 hours of overtime a month, Yi said in a letter to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.

Hansol Chemical did not give him a single safety education session although Yi was exposed to a variety of chemicals on the job.  Chemicals often splattered onto his bare skin and eyes.  He had to inhale chemical fumes because the workshop’s poor ventilation system always sputtered.

In 2015, Yi was diagnosed with the acute blood cancer.  In April 2016, with the help of the KCTU and SHARPS, he filed a petition for workers compensation.  An epidemiological investigation is still pending.

Yi is survived by his wife and three children.

400

It has yet to be determined whether his chemical exposure has directly caused the Hansol worker the acute blood disorder.  However, SHARPS has to date profiled about 400 electronics workers diagnosed with leukemia, brain tumors, and multiple sclerosis.

Lee Jae-yong, Vice Chairman and the heir apparent of Samsung, (left) and Cho Yeon-joo, executive director and de facto owner of Hanson Chemical, (right) are cousins.

Lee Jae-yong’s Samsung and His Cousin’s Hansol

Hansol Chemical, part of Hansol Group and a spin-off from Samsung Group, is effectively controlled by Cho Yeon-joo, the 37-year-old executive director who is cousin to Lee Jae-yong, the heir apparent of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

Hansol Chemical was a mediocre chemicals maker until 2014, since when it began to supply large volumes of chemical components to Samsung.  For fiscal 2015, Hansol Chemical posted a 73.7 percent increase in operating income, the leap market commentators aptly termed “Samsung effect.”

For Yi and his co-workers, “Samsung effect” is just deadly.  Samsung has been outsourcing not only chemicals but also risk to Hansol, which has to date shown little willingness to improve workers safety at its plants.

As of this posting, neither Samsung nor Hansol has released a statement on Yi’s death.

 

SHARPS’s Sit-in: 300 Days And Still Counting

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.

*On Aug. 3, 2016, this post was updated to better describe SHARPS’ demands.

 

newstapa

Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, 74 years old, is caught on film with prostitutes.  Source: Newstapa

Lee Kun-hee, the second-generation founder and chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., has routinely frequented several prostitutes simultaneously, video clips obtained by independent news cooperative Newstapa revealed on July 21.

Post-pardon Prostitution

Between December 2011 and June 2013, the 74-year-old Samsung patriarch engaged in sexual activity with four or five prostitutes, in their 20s or 30s, on at least five different occasions at two different private residences in Seoul, according to Newstapa.  About a year earlier, in March 2010, Lee reclaimed the chairman position of Samsung after a government pardon of his convictions for tax evasion of about U$39 million.

Assisted by two male accomplices, one of the prostitutes taped the five occasions.  They, in vain, extorted Samsung for hush money.

Lee suffered from a heart attack in May 2014, and has since been in a coma.

Silence

Despite its near-ubiquity, prostitution is outlawed in South Korea. Some of the country’s public would probably shrug off another run-in by Samsung’s Lee.  As if in confirmation of Samsung’s influence on the South Korean press, the Korea Broadcasting System, the country’s equivalent of the UK’s BBC, took down a report of Lee’s transgression from its website on the night of July 21.

As of this reporting, none of the so-called three major newspapers (Chosun, Joongang and Dong A) have run a single story.  Nor has Yonhap News, the country’s publicly chartered news agency.

On July 22 (Korean time), Samsung released a brief statement apologizing for “causing a controversy in connection with Chairman Lee.”

Obscenity 
The conspicuous obscenity and misogyny of his latest criminal misdeed aside, the video clips revealed the long-held pattern of how Lee uses his public companies and treats the people who work for him.

According to Newstapa, one of the two upscale residences Lee used for his sexual escapade is leased under the name of Kim In, Lee’s right-hand man who retired in 2010 as CEO of Samsung SDS, the IT services provider living off related party transactions with Samsung affiliates.

Confronted by Newstapa, neither Kim nor Samsung SDS appeared to be aware of how a security deposit of KRW1.3 billion (U$11.4 million) was paid for the leased house.  Samsung Group remains silent on how the payment was made, adding to concerns that Lee still may arbitrarily use the conglomerate’s funds.

Lee’s disregard for basic human and labor rights was also self-evident.  He appeared to apply the same tough labor discipline even to his illegal sex workers, the recordings revealed.  In one scene, a woman, apparently a go-between, charged a penalty of KRW 500,000 ($440) on KRW 5 million (U$4,400) for each prostitute because they failed to satisfy one of the preferences set by Lee for height, weight, and outfit.

All in all, what Newstapa’s exclusive report implies:  Lee’s fall from grace.  In South Korea, the patriarch was once touted as a visionary leader for turning a me-too brand Samsung into a global tech giant.

After a series of irregularities, Lee has lost public respect.  He is now a subject of public contempt, despised enough to be extorted by petty criminals.

Can Samsung and the founding family turn around the status quo? The answer would depend at least in part on how they will address ongoing occupational disease crisis.

On Newstapa

Newstapa, founded in 2012 by a small group of investigative TV journalists who were forcibly dismissed for their demands for editorial independence, files and distributes reports via YouTube and local podcasting platforms.  It is a form of cooperative run by donations.

As the sole Korean part of the Panama Papers Project by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Newstapa recently unearthed shell companies owned by POSCO, South Korea’s steelmaker, and children of the country’s former military dictators.

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) institute a permanent, independently verifiable safety program;
2) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and
3) make a sincere and full apology.

newdaily

NewDaily Biz uses a Samsung-cluster victim’s family conflict to smear the victim and SHARPS.  Source: NewDaily webpage capture

 

NewDaily Biz, the conservative online newspaper notorious for its top executive’s attempts at ingratiation with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., has recently shown that it would enthusiastically kowtow to the world’s largest company at the expense of the ongoing personal distress of a Samsung-cluster victim and the integrity of SHARPS.

Rescue My Daughter?

On July 15, NewDaily Biz ran an interview with the father of a cluster victim, whom staff writer Choi Jong-hee quoted as crying: “Rescue my daughter held hostage [by SHARPS].”  SHARPS has profiled and been representing the victim (her name is withheld at her request to protect  her privacy), diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008 after working in a Samsung LCD lab in 2003-5.  The victim, now in her late twenties, had severed ties with her father when she was a teenager, before her employment with Samsung, for personal reasons.

At the victim’s request, they do not disclose to her father her whereabouts or other private information while SHARPS activists have, on a number of different occasions, provided consultation and advice to her parents.

Defamation?

The following day, on July 16, Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’ legal counsel, and Lee Jong-ran, its labor attorney, met with the victim’s father and reporter Choi.  The father said he did not mean to describe his daughter as hostage and was quoted out of context.  Reporter Choi did not counter or object to the father’s claim.

SHARPS demanded Choi to take down the article.  Instead of giving a direct answer, in an email he sent to SHARPS’s Lim, the reporter said he recorded all defamatory remarks made against him during the meeting as he felt insulted.

최종희(3x4)

NewDaily Biz reporter Choi Jong-hee   Source: Newdaily Biz website

Samsung’s Hostage                        

It is well known that the newspaper’s editorial leadership and management remain subservient to Samsung, which controls about 14.4 percent of South Korea’s advertisement with annual spending of KRW 2.8 trillion (U$2.5 billion).

On April 18, 2014, NewsDaily Biz Representative Director and Editor-in-Chief Park Jung-kyu took down a review of Another Promise, a crowd-funded feature film based on the story of a SHARPS founder and the father of the first known cluster victim, Hwang Sang-ki.

In a text message to a Samsung PR executive, Park said he learned that the executive was upset by the article on the movie and went on saying, “I immediately found out about what happened and immediately had it removed under my watch.”  After using the word “immediately” twice in a sentence, the top editor went on saying. “There was no particular intention, as it was written by a columnist.”

Park (1)

NewDaily Biz Representative Director Park Jung-kyu  Source: Naver.com capture

He concluded the text, expressing “deep and deep” gratitude.  Park remains Representative Director while his publication and reporters appear to be held hostage by Samsung.

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) institute a permanent, independently verifiable safety program;

2) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and

3) make a sincere and full apology.

 

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