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.
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.
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.
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.