Archive for June, 2012

Activists representing thirty-seven labor rights and sustainability groups from across the globe held a three-day get-together outside Seoul on June 17-20, to share their common experiences in solidarity work and campaigns for a sustainable electronics industry.

At the three-day Global Meeting on a Sustainable Electronics Industry, the activists agreed that their movement is poised to grow thanks to the following reasons:

  • A rise in public awareness of environmental and occupational health, and workers rights;
  • The emergence of a new movement that may grow strong enough to change the lifecycle of  the global electronic industry;
  • The emergence of a new generation of activists such as SHARPS that is raising public awareness of occupational-disease clusters at multinational corporations such as Samsung and that is mounting strong pressure on the government to address the workers safety issue; and
  • An escalation in labor and environmental protests in China.

The activists also identified the weaknesses as follows:

  • A poor level of global coordination between activists compared with a highly integrated global electronics industry;
  • A poor level of resources among the activists compared with a rapidly expanding global electronics; and
  • A need to develop ways to better coordination in order to create synergy, minimize duplication and maximize the impact.

The activists on June 20 joined the daily picket mounted by bereaved families of Samsung leukemia victims, wrapping up Global Meeting on a Sustainable Electronics Industry.  The first-ever global networking conference was planned to mark the tenth anniversary of the International Campaign for Responsible Technology based in San Jose, California.

Global Meeting on a Sustainable Electronics Industry was  comprised of activists representing the following groups (in alphabetical order):

Altogether, Korea

Association of Injured Workers, Korea

Asia Monitor Resource Centre, Hong Kong

Association for Labour Rights Promotion (TALRIP), Thailand

Center for Development and Integration, Vietnam

Citizen of the Earth (CET), Taiwan

Consumer Association of Penang, Malaysia

Dasan Human Rights Center, Korea

Electronic Industry Employees Union Western Region (EIEU Western Region), Malaysia

Globalization Monitor, Hong Kong

Gyeonggi Irregular Workers Support Center, Korea

Hesperian, USA

Indonesian Metalworkers Union (FSPMI), Indonesia

International Campaign for Responsible Technology, USA

ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office, Hong Kong

Korea Institute of Labor Safety and Health (KILSH), Korea

Korea Metal Workers Union (KMWU), Korea

Labor Education & Service Network, Hong Kong

Labour Action China, Hong Kong

Local Initiative for OSH Network (LION), Indonesia

National Alliance Federation of Independent Trade Union (NAFITU), Taiwan

NXP Union, Philippines

Oxfam, Vietnam

Pearl River Delta Worker Service Centre, China

People’s Solidarity for Social Progress (PSSP), Korea

Sedane Resource Center (LIPS) Indonesia

Solidarity Centre, Thailand

Supporters for Health and Rights of People in Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS), Korea

Taiwan Association for Victim of Association for Occupational Injuries (TAVOI), Taiwan

Taiwan Labor Information & Education Association, Taiwan

Texas Environment, USA

Thai Labor Campaign, Thailand

Wintex Union, Taiwan

Workers Assistance Centre, the Philippines

Worksafe, USA

Yokohama Action Research, Japan

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Dozens of sustainability activists and labor-rights advocates from across the globe rallied at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s headquarters in Seoul on June 20th, protesting inaction by the world’s largest electronics maker toward the occupational disease crisis at its plants.

About thirty international activists, who just wrapped up a three-day conference called Global Meeting on a Sustainable Electronics Industry,  joined pickets mounted by bereaved families of the workers who died of a variety of blood disorders which they allegedly contracted during employment with Samsung Electronics and its subsidiaries.

Activists from the U.S., China, Indonesia, Mexico and other nations carried pickets written in their native languages.  “We Want Green Phones, Not Killer Phones,” one English picket read.  “No More Deaths at Samsung,” read a sign in Spanish.

“During the past three days [of the conference] we have come to better understand that electronics workers are facing similar issues globally, against electronics giants,” Lee Jong-ran, a certified labor attorney with SHARPS, said, emphasizing the need for international solidarity.  “There was an outbreak of occupational disease at IBM factories in the Silicon Valley in the 1980s.  The same outbreak is now taking place at Samsung, and it will be likely happening in other parts of the world. ”

“[At the conference] we made a resolution to spread the word to every part of the world about the horrid march of death unfolding at Samsung,” she concluded.

A sudden summer rain did not dampen the spirits of solidarity .   “I wish for the agonies of Samsung victims to go away, and for the tears of their families to dry, just like a rain that has just come and gone,” Kong Jeong-ok, an MD with SHARPS, said in a voice choked with grief.

In related development, on June 19, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, an independent government human rights watchdog, filed a non-binding request with the South Korean government, calling for the Ministry of Employment and Labor to require employers to prove non-causality between employees’ working conditions and their diseases in order to deny requests for workers compensation.

Global Meeting on a Sustainable Electronics Industry took place outside Seoul on June 18-20, joined by representatives of more than thirty-six activist groups from ten countries.

SHARPS, Asia Monitoring Resource Centre of Hong Kong, Citizen of The Earth Taiwan, Good Electronics and the International Campaign for Responsible Technology jointly hosted the conference.


Dozens of global labor and sustainability activists on June 20 joined the bereaved families of Samsung victims mounting protests.

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.

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We cannot afford any more deaths!

This year alone, four young Samsung Electronics employees have died.

In January 2012, Lee Eun-ju the 37-year-old former employee at the Onyang plant of Samsung Electronics died of ovarian cancer.  Diagnosed at the age of 25, she battled it for 12 years.

In March, Kim Do-eun, the 36-year-old former employee at the Kihung plant of Samsung Electronics, died of breast cancer.  Diagnosed at the age of 30, she battled it for six years.

On May 7, Lee Youn-jeong, 32-year-old former employee at the Onyang plant of Samsung Electronics, died of malignant brain tumor, after two years of struggle.

Before our tears dry, we are not standing before the death of another woman worker—Yun Seul-ki of the LCD plant of Samsung Electronics.

In June 1999, ahead of graduating high school, Yun began her job cutting LCD panels at the plant.  After fewer than six months working at Samsung, she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.  She has since depended on blood transfusions for 13 years for continuing with her life.  On June 2, she died in terrible pain caused by hemorrhages in the intestine and lung.

Hers is the fifty-sixth death at Samsung!  How many more have to die?

We mourn over the untimely death of Yun and demand the following:

First, the government must recognize Yun’s death as the result of an occupational disease. 

About twenty requests for workers compensation were denied because Samsung Electronics workers could not prove that their diseases were caused by the job.  This is very unfair.  How can a dead former employee prove her fatal disease that was caused by the working conditions experienced ten years prior?  What is more, Samsung does not even disclose the chemicals used at the plants, citing business confidentiality.

To promptly provide medical benefits to injured and sick workers and ensure financial security for their families, workers compensation should more broadly define what constitutes an occupational disease

Workers compensation is a form of public insurance designed to promptly provide medical benefits to workers who become injured or sick in the course of employment.

To meet this goal, it should recognize occupational diseases when there is causality between employment and the disease.

Indeed, in February of this year, the Ministry of Employment and Labor released the results of an epidemiologic investigation by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, indicating that semiconductor production may create such hematologic carcinogens as benzene and formaldehyde.  In April, a request for workers compensation by Kim Ji-sook, a former Samsung Electronics semiconductor worker diagnosed with aplastic  anemia, was approved, the first such approval.

The late Yun’s request for workers compensation must be approved because she contracted the same disease at a LCD plant where workers are exposed to similar chemicals to those affecting their chip-making colleagues.

Second, Samsung must make a public apology and disclose information regarding the working conditions experienced by its employees suffering from occupational disease.

Why should records of working conditions more than a decade old still be confidential?  On the pretext of business confidentiality, Samsung has not disclosed the chemicals it has used and concealed all information regarding working conditions.  It has been reiterating its old position: “working conditions were impeccable” and “there is no occupational disease.”

Samsung must stop its irresponsible ploys and at least express condolences to her family.  It should disclose how many workers have quit their job because of serious illnesses.

Third, the South Korean government must take extraordinary action to thwart a repeat of the same tragedy.   

SHARPS, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, and many other labor and civil-society advocates have been demanding that the government not only conduct a thorough fact-finding probe, but also make a comprehensive policy approach towards not only semiconductors makers, but also towards the entire electronics industry and its suppliers and contracts.  However, the government has left the industry to police itself.

Despite the facts that at Samsung alone 56 workers died, and with deaths at SK Hynix, MagnaChip and contractors included, at least 63 deaths are confirmed, the government has not taken special action. This inaction defies comprehension.  In February, when the epidemiologic probe turned up carcinogens, the government said it was planning to issue correction orders to the chipmakers.  However, there has since been no public confirmation of how or whether the orders were delivered, complied with, or confirmed.  We do not want a government order without teeth. We demand that the government implement a measure that would stop a repeat of occupational diseases at semiconductors and LCD production facilities.

Finally, we lament the death of Yun Seul-ki and call upon Samsung Electronics workers and citizens to show their solidarity and support. 

As of today, the only way to prevent further deaths is active participation by citizens and whistleblowing by the workers.  We strongly call for solidarity and participation, so information regarding Samsung working conditions can unveil the truth of the unjust deaths, which has to date covered up by the government and the corporation.

Supporters for the Health and Rights of People In the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS)

Committee for Samsung Leukemia Victims in Chungnam Province

Korean Metal Workers Union

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions 

June 5, 2012

An impromptu candlelight vigil organized on June 4 for the late Yun Seul-ki by SHARPS supporters

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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.


Yun Seul-ki’s family members enter into the ICU where she was pronounced dead–after 13 years of suffering from aplastic anemia. Her family wants to withhold  pictures of her.

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.

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