Archive for April, 2011

The company initially ignored four suicide attempts by the same worker without taking action

By Jeon Jin-sik

Ninety-seven days. The chrysanthemums were a faint yellow with their heads dropped limply. The season changed from bitter cold to spring landscapes. At the viewing room for a young man who wilted away like the flowers, there was merely candlelight.

At the viewing room in Soonchunhyang University Cheonan Hospital in South Chungcheong Province early Sunday morning, family members of the late Kim Ju-hyeon were just packing up their things. Kim, an employee at the Tangjeong factory of Samsung Electronics in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, took his own life on Jan. 11 by jumping from the thirteenth floor of his dormitory. His suicide came 373 days after he joined the company with the congratulations of his family.

Contending that Kim took his own life due to depression from excessive working hours and stress, the family members demanded an apology from the company and measures to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. They also claim that the company ignored no fewer than four previous suicide attempts by Kim without taking any appropriate measures on the morning of the incident.

“Being a worker for Samsung is not only a good thing,” said father Kim Myeong-bok 56, wiping away tears. “It was the first time I understood there was a world like this.”

A notebook confirmed to be Kim’s after the incident includes sentences such as “twelve hours of work = standard” and “one year and I’m dead.”

The record of the emergency care center at Soonchunhyung University Cheonan Hospital, which examined Kim’s body on the day of his death, includes phrases about “depression” and “references to suicide.” Samsung has refused to acknowledge this evidence that it knew about Kim’s suicide attempts.
Kim Myeong-bok and Samsung Electronics representatives signed an agreement on Apr. 15 that included a company apology and pledge to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

“I had no idea it would be so hard getting this single sheet of paper,” Kim said.

On the same day, the bereaved family members withdrew a January petition to the Cheonan branch of the Ministry of Employment of Labor asking for special labor oversight at Samsung Electronics, which the company demanded as part of its terms for signing the agreement.

Kim’s family members paid a visit Sunday to the dormitory where he had lived, but were unable to stay for even ten minutes due to control measures from the company. Following Kim’s cremation at Cheonan Memorial Park, the family plans to keep the container with his ashes at their home in Incheon for the time being.

“We will monitor to see whether the measures to prevent reoccurrence are properly implemented,” said Lee Jong-ran, a labor attorney with Banollim, a human rights and health watchdog for semiconductor workers.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

Original source article at: http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/473516.html

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Han Hye-gyoung, former Samsung worker, suffering from a brain tumour

Han Hye-kyeong, a 33-year-old Samsung Electronics liquid crystal display (LCD) plant employee suffering from a brain tumor, left, says Thursday at a news conference held at the Seoul Central District Court, “Samsung Electronics management should apologize to the victims.”

Han worked soldering circuit boards for six years and argued, “We manufacturing workers also have a right to know about how bad the toxic materials are.”

Four victims of occupational disease in Samsung Electronics plants including Han filed an administrative lawsuit against the Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service (KComWel) as the KComWel rejected their request for medical treatment due to industrial accidents.

On that day, Banollim, a civic organization for semiconductor plant workers’ health and human rights, released a report detailing the rate of occupational disease for employees of Samsung Electronics and Samsung Electro-Mechanics. According to the report, of the 120 workers who notified the organization of their disease since November of 2007, 56 reported contracting cancer of the blood forming system such as leukemia. Brain tumor accounted for eight, followed by aplastic anemia at 6, breast cancer at 5 and skin cancer at 4.

(Photo by Kim Myoung-jin, Story by Hwang Chun-hwa)

Original article at:


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Korean people like the number “three”.  

In Korea, when we fail or are disappointed, we encourage ourselves quoting a common saying “don’t give up until the third trial”.

The funeral usually takes three days. Even though I don’t know the exact historical base, but we feel the “three” as a complete, comfortable number.

However, today is the ninetieth day from Joohyun’s death. He was twenty-five years old when he entered Samsung LCD as an engineer. His family still remembers how much he was happy to be a “Samsung-man”.

78th day of picketting in front of the plant - Joohyun's father

But Joohyun’s dream was totally destroyed.

Joohyun had suffered from skin disease due to chemicals which he could not know even the names of. So he had to move from the production line into a material supplying department.

But as before, he had to work more than 12 hours a day. He had to go to work whenever he got a call, even on holidays.

Also he was totally isolated  in his dormitory. There was no one with whom he could talk about because all the room mates had different work shift schedules. Moreover, more than three hundreds of cameras were watching everywhere to prevent workers assemblying.

Finally he got depression.

During the sick leave for two months, he looked to overcome his illness. But as the day to return to work was coming, he became irritable and anxious again.

A few days before the end of his sick leave, Joohyun visited the company to get counseling. After coming back from the company, he told his family that he should return to work, in the production line again. There was no other choice but to return to work – if he refused, he must quit his job.

52th day protesting at Samsung HQ - Joohyun's sister

The day was the first day of returning to work. Joohyun couldn’t sleep at all. He wandered here and there in the dormitory, and all his activities were recorded by hundreds cameras – even his four attempts to jump to his death.

Where is the justice?

Joohyun’s family have been demanding Samsung to apologize and take responsible action, because both Joohyun’s depression and death were not just individual problems.

According to the law, the company should:

– not force workers to work such a long time

– not force a sick worker to work in ain improper job

– guarantee the safety of workplaces and dormitories

– prevent workers’ physical and mental illness from working condition

So the family asked the local office of Ministry of Labor to investigate Joohyun’s working conditions, and to the police to investigate what had happened on the very day of Joohyun’s death.

At first, the response from both governmental organizations were the same: silence and ignorance. To tell a long story briefly, it took 90 days for them to do what they must do.

Recently, the local office of MOL have found a few illegal practices of Samsung, a small but clear evidence that can show the working conditions in Samsung plants are not different from that of a sweatshop. Finally, they will send the documents to the public prosecution office tomorrow.

That’s the reason why the family of Joohyun could not carry out his funeral until now. They just want to see where the justice is. And it has taken 90 days from his death…

84th protest visit to the Ministry of Labor

Today, Joohyun’s father told me:

“I think this is a new beginning. My family have already been tired so much, but we can’t stop here. We must watch the prosecutor. I told my wife and daughter that we must keep fighting, and that don’t forget what we have been demanding – our demand is that Samsung must apologize and take their responsibility for my son’s death.”

April 20 will be the 100th day from Joohyun’s death.

Let’s demand Samsung to get responsibility.

Let’s demand the Korean government to do their duty to watch the company and to punish its illegal practice.

Let’s add our voices to this lonely struggle of family who lost their youngest one.

Please think and act whatever you can add your voices to this struggle before the 100th day is coming.

Justice for all can’t be achieved without justice for the weakest people.

In solidarity,

For an earlier account of the suicide and later struggles of Joohyun’s family, see this previous post.

written by Jeong-ok Kong  (+82-10-9140-6249, anotherkong@gmail.com)
Supporters for Health And Rights of People in Semiconductor Industry (SHARPs)

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This short movie shows the forty-six workers who lost their life due to the occupational diseases at Samsung, one of the biggest company in Korea and one of the most famous electronic company in the world. Most of the victims got the illness at very young age and died. Listen to their voice, “Don’t forget me, my dream, my life, my tears, and my suffering”. Watch and share widely!


With English captions.

  • March, 2011, made by SHARPs (Supporters for Health And Right of People in Semiconductor Industry)
  • [Music] “Reason” by Park Chang-geun
  • [English] Stopsamsung.wordpress.com
  • [Korean] cafe.daum.net/samsunglabor
  • [Email] Sharps@hanmail.net

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The Second Collective Law Suit on Workers’ compensation

April 7, SHARPs held a press conference in the court and announced the second collective law suit against the government by four victims of occupational disease in Samsung electronics. The government agency which manages the National workers’ compensation insurance had refused to compensate them because the victims could not prove the so-called “work-relatedness” of their diseases.

The government has been demanding these victims to reveal “exactly what kind of chemicals” and “exactly how intensively” they had been exposed. But the workers had never got any education nor information about the chemicals in their workplace from the company.

Kim Chil-jun, one of two lawyers for the victims, said “it’s too unfair to shift all the responsibility of proving onto the victims”. According to his explanation, all these victims had entered the Samsung electronics before graduation of high school and must work more than 12 hours a day, being exposed to various hazardous chemicals without any information. The lawyer added, “By this law suit, we want to raise awareness of the hazard of the high-tech electronic industry as well as occupational diseases in Samsung electronics, and to make an opportunity to fix the wrong decision criteria of the workers’ compensation system.”

One of the four victims, Han Hae-kyoung, said, “the company never gave any information about the hazard to us”, and “I regret so bitterly working Samsung. No use to cry after losing health. What is the use of better pay?”. She added, “the company should not do this. They must have already known it, then they should tell us.”

The four victims who raised the law suit together are:

Han Hae-kyoung (female, age 33, brain tumor)
entered Samsung LCD plant in 1995, worked in soldering of PCB with lead, quit the company due to losing menstruation in 2001, got tumor in 2005, now has the first degree of disability in walking, talking, and vision.

Lee Yoon-jeong (female, age 31, malignant brain cancer)
entered Samsung semiconductor plant in Onyang, worked for 6 years in the job of testing the chip with very high temparature, quit the company in 2003, got the cancer in 2010 and announced to be able to live only 1 or 2 years.

You Myoung-hwa (female, age 29, aplastic anemia)
the same job in the same plant with Lee Yoon-jeong, entered the company in 2000, got the disease in 2001, has been living in her room depending on transfusion for 10 years but will not survive without bone marrow transplantation, has failed all the efforts to find out the proper donor both in and out of Korea.

Lee Hee-jin (female, age 27, multiple sclerosis)
entered Samsung LCD plant in Choenan, examined the LCD panels in high stress, got the disease in 2008, lost the vision of one eye, suffers from various dysfunction.


This law suit is not only for the compensation of 4 workers, but also for the lots of nameless victims of occupational diseases in the whole electronics industry in Korea.

Please keep your eyes on our struggles.


written by Jeong-ok Kong  (+82-10-9140-6249, anotherkong@gmail.com)
Supporters for Health And Rights of People in Semiconductor Industry

Related articles (In Korean language, But you can find a few photos there.)

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