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Park Sang-hoon regularly receives expensive gifts from Samsung although he represents five victims of the company’s occupational disease cluster.  Source:  Hwawoo.org

Media Expose:  Samsung, In Effect, Bribes Cluster Victims’ Lawyer

A lawyer who represents victims of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s blood-disorder cluster has been being showered with expensive gifts by a senior executive of the company’s parent.

Chang Choong-ki, former president of Samsung Group’s Future Strategy Office (FSO), regularly gifted expensive concert tickets, worth $250-$300 apiece, to Park Sang-hoon, a lawyer representing five Samsung cluster victims seeking workers compensation, multiple media outlets reported on Aug. 8, citing text messages between Chang and Park.

Nerve Center

Responsible for inter-affiliate coordination, the FSO is the nerve center of the mega-conglomerate’s flagship Samsung Electronics and 60-plus other affiliates.  Unaccountable to disclosure regulations, the office’s operations are shrouded in secrecy.  However, the widely known fact in South Korea is that it runs a vast network of gift–giving and bribery that is deeply seated in politics, bureaucracy, the judiciary, and the press.

Since Feb. 2017, Chang, 63 years old, and Samsung executives were indicted for bribery charges implicating Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-yong and Park Geun-hye (not related to Park, the lawyer), the president who was impeached in Dec. 2016.

The latest revelations showed Samsung’s tentacles have reached the legal counsel of its occupational disease victims.

Switching Sides for Cultured Life?

Attorney Park, 55 years old, is a former judge and a partner with one of the country’s largest law firms, Yoon & Yang LLC.

When Park began to receive gifts from Samsung’s Chang has yet to be determined. However, in a text message to him in July 2016, Park said, “Thanks to Seoul Arts Center tickets you keep sending me, President Chang, I am living a cultured life richly.”

In 2011, on a pro bono basis, he played a role in winning a court decision that ruled that the diseases of two Samsung victims were occupationally caused.  It was the first-of-its kind courtroom win for SHARPS although three other victims’ cases were rejected.

However, Park seems to have switched sides by the time KCOMWEL, aided by Samsung, appealed the decision.

On June 26, 2014, in the appeals court, Park abruptly asked the judge to postpone the ruling on Hwang Yu-mi, the first publicly known victim of the Samsung cluster, because Samsung, the defendant, had begun negotiations with other victims, said Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’s legal counsel, in a Facebook post.   After protests by other lawyers and Hwang’s father, Hwang Sang-ki, Park rescinded the request, Lim added.

장충기

Chang Choong-ki’s  FSO is allegedly behind Samsung’s vast network of bribery.  Source: YouTube.

Split

In Oct. 2015, Park helped some families members of Samsung victims splinter from SHARPS and form a separate group called the Family Settlement Committee.  After the split, Samsung walked out of the arbitration process, for which SHARPS had fought for years, and initiated a limited compensation scheme.

All these moves prompted SHARPS to begin a sit-in at Samsung’s corporate headquarters in Oct. 2015.  The sit-in is still ongoing.

Ombudsman

Park is also senior advisor for the Ombudsman Committee, an external monitoring structure for Samsung’s worker safety practice, which the company, the family committee, and SHARPS agreed to launch in 2016.

His job was to advise on the independence and neutrality of the committee, but Park appears to have clandestinely worked on behalf of Samsung’s interests.

In a text message to Chang, he said, “Thanks to your care and interest, the Ombudsman Committee will be put on a normal path.”  He went on with his lawyerly saying: “Three years of the committee’s activity will yield appropriate accomplishments.”

“I will play my own role as senior advisor,” he concluded.

Turncoat with Self-Confidence

By 2017, Park has become something of Samsung’s unofficial mouthpiece.  In March, he rather abruptly agreed to an exclusive interview with the conservative Dong A Ilbo.  It was when the issue of Samsung’s occupational disease cluster came into public focus again after the arrest of Lee Jae-yong.

“Taking issue with the collusive nexus of politics and business is a good thing,” Park said in the interview.  “However, that issue must not be tied to Samsung’s leukemia [cluster].”

“That will be like tangling what’s already untangled,” he warned, saying. “It will be an insult to me and others who worked hard to solve the issue [of Samsung’s cluster].”

Last week, Park was tapped to represent the MBC, the country’s TV network,  in a lawsuit seeking an injunction banning a tell-all documentary on how the network’s management harassed and fired its own journalists for calling for editorial independence against government meddling.

Park resigned from the family committee as legal counsel and from the Ombudsman Committee as senior advisor, after the text messages surfaced.

SHARPS said it would file criminal complaints against Park and Chang.

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.

 

 

 

 

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Samsung victims and SHARPS activists were attacked and verbally abused by tens of far-right thugs as they submitted a petition to the court calling for a punishment to fit the crimes of Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co, Ltd.

On Aug. 7, the special prosecutors demanded 12 years in jail for Lee.  The heir apparent of the world’s largest technology company was arrested in Feb. 2016, on five accounts of bribery and influence-peddling.  The charges center on about $37 million in bribes and gifts he paid Choi Soon-sil, the shamanic confidante of President Park Geun-hye who was impeached early this year.

Bribes

The charges largely stem from the National Pension Service’s vote in favor of a controversial merger in 2015 between two Samsung affiliates that cemented Lee’s control of Samsung Electronics.  The merger cost the public’s retirement fund KRW 346.8 billion ($302 million), even according to the NPS’s own estimates. 

The Trial of The Century

The courtroom of Lee’s trial, dubbed the “trial of the century” by Korean media, is often filled by Samsung employees and hard-core supporters of Park, making it hard for SHARPS and Samsung victims to get their seats.

Attack

On Aug. 7, it was these far-rightists that attacked Han Hye-kyung, a 39-year-old wheelchair-bound victim of the Samsung blood-disorder cluster, and her mother, Kim Si-nyeo, 60 years old, as they submitted the petition signed by 2,729 people demanding the punishment to the fullest extent of the law for Lee.

The rightwing bigots threw expletives at the two women, pushing and slapping SHARPS supporters.  They derided Han’s handicapped condition, to the point that she covered her ears and burst into tears.  Her mother, Han, slumped against a wall, wailing.

The rightwing mob also attempted to attack special prosecutor Park Young-soo.  They threw water bottles at Park who managed to enter into the court, escorted by phalanxes of police officers.

This is not the first time pro-Park thugs attacked Samsung victims and SHARPS advocates.  In January 2017, tens of members of Mommies’ Troop, the far-right group of middle-aged females allegedly bankrolled by the Federation of Korean Industries, attempted to raid SHARPS’s sit-in.  They ripped SHARPS’s banners and posters, yelling, “Let’s defend Lee Jae-yong.”  Police were brought to the scene.  Two thugs were criminally charged later.

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.

 

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SHARPS has scored yet another legal win as a higher court in Seoul has upheld a lower-court declaration that a former Samsung employee’s disease was occupationally caused.

On July 25, 2017, the higher court threw out an appeal by the KCOMWEL and upheld a lower-court order for the agency to pay workers comp benefits to Kim Mi-seon, a 37 year-old, former LCD assembler of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. who has fallen victim to multiple sclerosis

Two Firsts

Kim’s long fight for workers comp had two firsts. She was the first multiple sclerosis victim to win an administrative court ruling in favor of her case for workers comp.  In Feb. 2017, the administrative court ruled that her condition was due to a combination of overwork and chemical exposure at Samsung’s LCD unit, which was spun off into a separate entity in 2012.  It was the first appeals victory for electronics workers suffering multiple sclerosis, the disease so rare that it affects only 3.5 in every 100,000 Koreans.

No Precedent

In July 2015, Samsung actually used the rarity of the disease and the lack of a judicial or administrative precedent to justify the lowest payout for multiple sclerosis under an already-problematic and divisive compensation scheme for the victims of its occupational disease cluster.  Also, citing the lack of medically proven data or a legal precedent, the scheme does not cover lung cancer and infertility.

Tragic Repeats

While her victory can be a gamechanger in ongoing legal proceedings and campaigns against Samsung, the 37 years old’s post-Samsung life was a repeat of many tragedies wrought upon Samsung cluster victims.

Kim was only 17 in June 1997 when she landed a job at Samsung LCD as an operator.  After three years of soldering tabs onto LCD modules and panels, in March 2000, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  In June 2000, she resigned as her condition deteriorated.

Over the 17 years since her departure from Samsung, sclerosis steadily sank her physically and financially.  She is now legally blind in dire financial need that at least once led to SHARPS making an urgent appeal for financial donations for her.

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.

 

 

사본 -20160315반올림고이은주부모님 062.jpg

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.