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Archive for June 6th, 2012

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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