On July 24th, the Seoul police harassed and even briefly detained SHARPS’s lawyer and supporters, one day after the advocacy group stepped up its effort to further press Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, to admit that its hazardous working conditions have spawned a cluster of fatal occupational disease, and to compensate the victims.
On July 24, SHARPS’s labor attorney Lee Jong-ran called the police after a phalanx of private security guards sealed off the public sidewalk at the entrance of Samsung’s corporate headquarters in Seoul. Samsung also cordoned the streets around the building front with tens of buses in an apparent attempt to thwart pickets. Two police officers from the Seocho precinct of Seoul showed up. However, they did not take any action, claiming that maintenance of the streets is out of their jurisdiction.
Police Officers’ Rights to Their Portraits
Then, the two officers suddenly demanded a SHARPS volunteer stop videotaping their discussion with Lee. The officers said, “Stop videotaping. That’s violations of the portrait rights.”
The portrait right, also called the right of publicity, refers to the right of an individual to protect the fair use of image. In South Korea, portrait rights violations can lead to criminal charges. When asked why videotaping public officials violated their publicity rights, the police did not answer. Instead, they threatened to arrest the videographer unless he gave them his national ID number and address.
Following the argument, Lee murmured to herself, “They received money from Samsung?” Then, the officers arrested her, citing defamation.
Chung Hee-su, the husband of a Samsung victim, went to the precinct to protest the arrest. The police arrested him too for public disturbances, but he was not read her rights when arrested. Chung’s wife, Lee Yun-jeong died of brain tumor in May 2012. She was survived by Chung and two children.
Lee and Chung were released that evening, after being held for seven hours.
New Round Of Campaign To Heighten Pressure on Samsung
The police harassment came at a time when SHARPS has been increasing pressure on Samsung with a series of daily pickets and collective workers comp petitions. A day earlier, on July 23rd, SHARPS filed petitions for workers compensation on behalf of ten former Samsung Electronics employees. Four of the petitioners worked on the same memory chip or LCD production line, where their co-workers had already died or been suffering from a variety of blood disorder. Eight of the ten had been employed at the Kihung plant and two at the LCD plant of Samsung.
SHARPS also demanded the government conduct epidemiologic investigations of Samsung’s chip and LCD production lines.
One petitioner, who had inspected chip wafers—often with bare hands—at Samsung for 15 years, is diagnosed with choriocarcinoma, a fast-growing form of uterine cancer. The cancerous cells start in the tissues that would become the placenta, the organ that forms during pregnancy to feed the fetus.
Correction: a prior version of this post incorrectly indicated Chung Hee-su, husband of a Samsung victim, as a woman. This post has been updated to add more information on Chung and his late wife, Lee Yun-jeong