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Archive for October, 2013

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The Seoul administrative court ordered KCOMWEL on October 18 to pay industrial-accident payouts to the bereaved family of Kim Kyung-mi, a former Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd employee who died in 2009 of leukemia.

The Seoul administrative court ordered  KCOMWEL, the quasi-government entity responsible for workers compensation, on October 18 to withdraw its earlier decision and to pay industrial-accident payouts to the bereaved family of a former Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd employee who died in 2009 of leukemia.

Posthumous Victory

The ruling is a posthumous victory for Kim Kyung-mi, who had waged a long fight until her death four years ago.  Kim began work as a wafer etcher at the Giheung plant of Samsung in 1999, after graduating high school.  Until 2004 when she got married, Kim has worked at the same plant where Hwang Yu-mi, the first publicly known victim of Samsung’s blood disorder cluster, developed leukemia.

Marriage, Miscarriage, And Acute Leukemia

In 2005, she had a miscarriage—probably the first sign of physical anomalies because there was no family history of miscarriage.  After a regimen of fertility medications and treatment, in 2007, Kim gave birth to a child.

However, in 2008, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia after she suffered bruise-like rashes on her body.  The following year, she died, aged 29, after failed marrow transplants.

Uphill Battle

By 2012, KCOMWEL twice rejected petitions by Kim’s family for workers compensation.  In February 2013, her family brought a lawsuit against the workers compensation entity.

Samsung victims’ lawsuits against KCOMWEL meant more than just taking on obtuse bureaucrats.  Usually, the lawsuits quickly turned into a war by proxy as an army of shrewd corporate lawyers, hired by Samsung as expert witness or in other capacities, packed the courtrooms.  All these have been making the legal proceedings more costly and longer for Samsung victims and their families.

More Battles to Come

KCOMWEL and the administrative court have a mixed history of workers compensation payouts in connection with Samsung.

In December 2012, KCOMWEL concluded the breast cancer of a Samsung female worker was caused by an extensive period of night work.

However, in May 2013, KCOMWEL’s six-member appeals panel, which included a doctor employed with Samsung’s hospital franchise, turned down a petition by the family of Yun Seul-ki, the female employee who died of leukemia in June 2012, after working at the Giheung plant.

In August 2013, the Seoul administrative court upheld a decision by KCOMWEL to deny a 40-year-old Samsung employee with Lou Gehrig’s disease workers-compensation payouts.

KCOMWEL has a 14-day window to appeal the decision.

A court ruling is scheduled for Han Hye-kyung, a wheelchair-bound victim of the Samsung blood-disorder cluster, for November 1.

Announcement

SHARPS has obtained an internal brochure of Samsung Group, in which the conglomerate enumerates ways to respond to and eventually bust unionization drives. 

The 115-page brochure, published in 2012 for an annual seminar for executives and human resources managers at Samsung’s 78 affiliates, is an intriguing read.  It reveals how management of the world’s largest technology company views its employees and how it treats them.  In the next two or three posts, StopSamsung will discuss and analyze the anti-union brochure. 

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“Samsung’s ad for its newest phone, the Galaxy Note 3, and accompanying watch, the Galaxy Gear, is possibly the worst, most oblivious piece of video ever produced by a tech company,” declared Zachary M. Seward, senior editor with Quartz.

The ad, dubbed The Developer by Samsung, features an international soccer star, Lionel Messi and the hit single Royals by Lorde.  In the two-minute spot, a well-dressed mysterious developer, played by Messi, uses Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear to level a rundown neighborhood and turn into a soccer field.

Samsung describes the ad as the following:

Told from a child’s perspective, “The Developer” is a musical short film by Samsung featuring Lionel Messi and the hit single “Royals” by Lorde.

A mysterious stranger arrives in a low income neighborhood and captures the imaginations of the children who live there. He is “The Developer” and the children view him with a deep suspicion.

Together with his Samsung GALAXY Note 3 and GALAXY Gear, the Developer effortlessly masterminds a secret construction project. Using the latest in Samsung technology including Action Memo, Pen Window, Scrapbook and hands-free call capability on the Gear, the Developer orchestrates and executes his mysterious mission.

The children watch in awe. They reflect on their current situation by singing Lorde’s breakout hit Royals, a song about overcoming her own humble beginnings.

The spot concludes with a beautiful new pitch that has been constructed in the toughest part of town. The Developer is revealed to be the world’s reigning football star, Lionel Messi, fulfilling his personal mission to help under-privileged children.

The events in this story are a dramatic retelling of actual projects completed by the Messi Foundation. The film was directed by Adam Hashemi.

Royals by New Zealand singer Lorde is critical of ostentatious materialism and about teenager self-esteem.

“Whatever the hell is going on, it is the exact opposite of the message contained in Royals, and speaks to Samsung’s intensely weird lack of self-awareness and almost complete inability to sense irony in any form whatsoever,” said Nilay Patel, managing editor with The Verge.

Update

Director of Samsung’s ‘The Developer’ ad: “To me, the ad is funny”

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The funeral altar of Yim Hyeon-woo, the 36-year-old Samsung repairman who died on Sept. 27 of a brain hemorrhage, after putting in an average 60 hours a week since May.
Source: NewsMin

A young contractor of Samsung Electronics’ customer service arm died of what appears to be overwork, after putting in an average 60 hours a week in the past four months since May.

Deadly Peak Season

On Sept. 27, Yim Hyeon-woo, an employee with Daegu Service Co, a contractor for Samsung Electronics Service, died of a brain hemorrhage.  Samsung Electronics Service is a wholly owned customer service subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

The 36 year-old-repairman worked 52 hours a week at the least and more than 80 hours a week at the most in May-August of 2013, the peak season for electronics repairs, according to his work schedules obtained by independent news weekly Media Today.<Korean>

Throughout May and June, Yim worked on weekends and took only one day off.  He took 30 minutes a day for lunch while visiting tens of homes and offices daily to repair or collect a variety of Samsung electronic products in the city of Daegu, South Korea’s third-largest city.  At each visit, he was required to send a picture of him to his supervisor as proof that he was keeping up with the daily schedule.

Yim could only take time off for medical treatment at the cost of his piecework pay, according to a number of independent-media reports.

Trade Union

Yim’s “death allegedly from overwork” was the direct result of Samsung Electronics’ outsourcing policy.

Samsung Electronics outsources all repair and maintenance work to Samsung Electronics Service.  Samsung Electronics Service in turn directly owns only nine of its 107 repair branches.  The remaining 98 are contractors who hire the most of Samsung’s about 6,000-strong repair staff mainly on a piecework basis.

In August, about 1,600 workers from 64 branches formed a trade union, demanding Samsung Electronics Service to grant them full-time status in the company.  Samsung Electronics Service effectively controls the entire repair network.  It controls pay distribution for contractors and directly assigns jobs to the contract repair personnel.  Also, Samsung Electronic Service regularly audits the finances of its contractors.

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In August, about 1,600 workers from 64 Samsung contractors formed a trade union. Source: Ohmynews.com

For Samsung, All Is Above-Board

In September, South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor ruled that Samsung should pay the contract workers overtime.  However, it concluded that the way Samsung outsources repair work does not contravene the law.

The South Korean government’s acquiescence allows Samsung to continuously dump dangerous and dirty work onto small and vulnerable contractors, which in turn pass cost on to an army of contract workers.

In August, SHARPS published a study, revealing harsh working conditions at Samsung Electronics’ local suppliers.

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On Sept. 25, MINBYUN, activist lawyers’ group, and SHARPS held a joint press conference at the Samsung corporate headquarters, calling for UN intervention in the Samsung occupational disease cluster. Source: Minbyun

MINBYUN, or Lawyers for a Democratic Society, filed allegations letters with the Special Producers of Human Rights Council of the UN on Sept. 25, seeking intervention in Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s and the South Korean government’s inaction toward the deadly occupational disease cluster at the world’s largest chipmaker.

Lawyers’ Concerns

In three separate letters, drawing on data provided by SHARPS, MINBYUN enumerated concerns about the disease cluster, ranging from consistent failures by Samsung to protect employees from hazardous chemicals, to time-consuming and costly regulatory loopholes that help financially ruin the victims and their families.

“Indulged in speedy production of products, [Samsung] did not conduct training on the danger of the chemical substance and the necessity of protecting devices and did not provide sufficient protective devices,” MINBYUN alleged.

The activist lawyers raised concerns about shortcomings at Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service (KCOMWEL), the quasi-government entity responsible for workers compensation.  “Some of the victims who were rejected for industrial accident victim’s status are appealing in administrative courts asking for the status by KCOMWEL. But even when the administrative courts recognize the victims’ industrial accident status, KCOMWEL is not complying with the decisions,” the group said.

The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, part of the UN Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights, consist of human right experts reporting and advising on human rights from a country- and theme-specific perspective.  As of April 2013, the Procedures are under 36 thematic and 13 country mandates, according to its website.

On MINBYUN 

Founded in 1988, MINBYUN is South Korea’s largest activist lawyers’ group, focused on labor, environmental and peace issues.  The group provides consultation to the UN Economic and Social Council.

On SHARPS

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, 63 of the 155 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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