Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and the South Korean government have been appearing increasingly perturbed as AP investigative reports on their collusive efforts to block the release of information critical to workers compensation petitions filed by the tech company’s occupational-disease victims spread worldwide.
AP Reports Ripple Out
On Aug 10, the AP reported that the South Korean government allowed Samsung to cite trade secret concerns to withhold information about on-the-job chemical exposure from at least six workers compensation petitioners who developed various forms of blood order after working at Samsung’s chip or LCD labs.
Separately, the U.S. news agency released a profile of some victims of Samsung’s blood disorder cluster and a video clip summing up the two reports.
The impact of the reports rippled across the world. On Aug. 10, the Al Jazeera news network dispatched a report derived from the AP accounts. On Aug. 16, Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper by circulation, ran the AP pieces on the front page.
Samsung Grows Unsettled
On Aug. 12, the AP, prodded by Samsung, ran the following correction: “The Associated Press reported erroneously that a compensation plan the company offered covers some of the workers’ medical expenses. It covers all their medical expenses.”
The world’s largest tech company was just misleading. Indeed, Samsung paid medical bills when former employees were successfully granted compensation for their sickness under its limited and divisive compensation scheme. However, the company now uses its own undisclosed selection criteria for covering these recipients’ post-compensation medical expenses, said Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’s in-house legal counsel.
Perturbed by the AP reports, Samsung released two separate press statements on Aug. 10 and Aug. 13.
In the Aug. 10 statement, the company said, “even if a supplier cites trade secrets to withhold information, the chemical product provided to Samsung has been certified as not containing any toxic substance.” Samsung did not just shift the blame to suppliers, but also blurred the fact that some chemicals used in chip production can react to each other to create toxic substances. This is why full disclosure of all chemicals is important.
In the Aug. 13 statement, the company attempted to justify destruction of the entrance logs of one of its cleanrooms, citing a lack of regulatory clarification on such destruction.
The destruction came in 2010, after attempts by the family of Sohn Kyung-joo, a 53-year-old Samsung contractor who died of leukemia a year earlier, to use the logs as evidence of his chemical exposure in his posthumous worker compensation proceedings.
With much information shrouded in secrecy, the daily records of ins and outs of cleanrooms could be major evidence for workers compensation cases. The logs showed how often and long workers and contractors have stayed in the dirt-free chip labs, according to many accounts, limned with chemical smells.
Government’s Freudian Slip
On Aug. 12, South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor denied the AP reports that it, at Samsung’s request, withheld the information. “We designated the information in question as trade secret as defined under law,” said the labor ministry—accidentally admitting that it served Samsung when it should regulate the corporation in the interests of workers safety.
SHARPS’s Sit-in: 300 Days And Still Counting
Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to: 1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.