Archive for September, 2016



UN Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak says some South Korea media have “grossly misrepresented his report on Samsung.  Source: Twitter


In an unusual break from a usual diplomatic tone, a UN hazardous chemicals expert has criticized South Korean media for glossing over his report on Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd and its occupational-disease cluster.

A series of South Korea’s media reports downplayed UN Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak’s report on the country when they said he did not turn up any evidence tying Samsung’s working conditions to the diseases and disabilities of its workers, said the human rights and hazardous substances and wastes expert, in an op-ed on Sept. 19 for the independent daily Hankyoreh.

Gross Misrepresentation

“Certain recent media articles [in South Korea] grossly misrepresent my report as not finding evidence that working conditions at Samsung Electronics led to diseases or disabilities among former workers,” said Mr. Tuncak.  “Based on my conversations with companies, the government, scientists, attorneys, mediators and victims, this is far from the truth.”

The opening salvo of the fusillade of false reports was fired on the Sunday evening of Sept. 11 by Yonhap News, the country’s publicly chartered news agency which has little reason to kowtow to Samsung, its largest corporate ad buyer, but often does nevertheless.

The Yonhap dispatch was quickly rehashed and distributed by more than thirty news outlets.

While there is no evidence of direct corporate involvement, the dissemination of the falsified report fit the usual pattern by Samsung of spinning the news: the conglomerate often puts out negative or even false news over weekends to have news outlets release it without fact-checking.


On the Sunday evening of Sept. 11, a series of news reports emerged, falsely claiming that the UN probe did not turn up any evidence tying Samsung’s working conditions to its occupational disease cluster.  Source: Huffpost Korea


On Sept. 16, Mr. Tuncak, a lawyer and a chemist, made a presentation based on his report at the 33rd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  The 24-page report, dated Aug. 3, delineated a wide range of topics from the Samsung cluster to the Oxy Reckitt Benckiser disinfectant scandal.  The following are highlights on Samsung:

  • On Samsung’s refusal to disclose chemicals used during employment of the cluster victims. “The Special Rapporteur reiterates that, under international laws, global policy frameworks and national law, health and safety information on hazardous substances should not be confidential.”
  • On the government’s inaction. “Apart from these investigations and the industrial accident compensation insurance scheme, the Special Rapporteur notes a surprisingly low level of action taken by the Government, the primary duty bearer when it comes to respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of workers and of victims to an effective remedy.”
  • On the Ombudsman Committee to monitor Samsung’s safety efforts. “The Special Rapporteur welcomes the establishment of the Ombudsman Committee, and looks forward to its implementation with both transparency and meaningful public participation by all stakeholders.”
  • On the transparency of compensation. “The Special Rapporteur understands there are concerns regarding how the compensation process adhered to the recommendations of the Mediation Committee and encourages all parties to increase transparency and participation in this regard.”
  • On the burden of proving the work-relatedness of illnesses. “The causal relationship need not be proven medically or scientifically but can be inferred from the consideration of various situational factors. Consideration of all the circumstances, such as the health of the worker at the time of employment, possible explanations for the disease, whether any hazardous substances existed in the workplace and the amount of time the worker spent in the workplace, makes possible the conclusion that there is a proximate causal relationship between the worker’s duties and the disease.”

SHARPS Goes To Geneva

Kwon Young-eun, SHARPS’s full-time organizer, partook in the UN Human Rights Council.  On Sept. 14, joined by other activists from NGOS in South Korea, she mounted a street performance on the cluster victims.  On Sept. 16, SHARPS co-hosted a side session on chemical hazards caused by multinationals in Asia, where Mr. Tuncak also spoke.

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SHARPS’s Sit-in To Mark One-Year Milestone

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.

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At SHARPS’ sit-in site, each pair of white rubber sleepers represents a cluster victim.  Credit: Lee Ki-hwa

Korea Workers Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL) has posthumously granted workers compensation benefits to two Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.workers, after deeming their lung cancers to be occupationally caused—the service’s first-ever admission of a pulmonary condition as an occupational disease for semiconductor workers.


On Aug. 29th and 30th KCOMWEL approved workers comp benefits for Lee Gyeong-hui and Song Yu-gyeong, based on epidemiological findings by its lung disease investigation unit.

KCOMWEL’s approval is a counterbalance to the latest ruling by the country’s highest court, which turned down three Samsung employees’ workers comp petitions by passing the burden of proof  on to the infirm or deceased workers for their occupational disease claims.

The Victims

Employed at Samsung’s chip lab in April 1994, Lee resigned from the job in Nov. 2011, after his diagnosis with lung cancer.  He died, at age 41, in May 2012.  Five month later, his family petitioned for workers comp.

Between Jan. 1984 and March 2001, Song worked at two different units, chip and LCD, of Samsung.  He died in 2011, at age 44, three years after his diagnosis with the cancer.  In 2014, his family filed for workers compensation.

As maintenance engineers, both Lee and Song engaged in etching processes involving arsenic, a well-documented carcinogen.   Additionally, routinely long working hours and daily exposure to other chemicals also cumulatively caused the workers’ cancer, the epidemiological findings indicated.

Parsimonious on Pulmonary Conditions

Despite ample evidence that Samsung’s chip and LCD production processes are limned with chemical exposures, KCOMWEL had cited a lack of evidence and rejected workers comp petitions for workers suffering pulmonary conditions.

This has been true particularly of Samsung’s LCD workers while Song, a LCD line engineer, could receive workers compensation benefits because he spent more than half of his employment at a chip lab.  In December 2015, Lee Jie-hye, aged 29, died of lung cancer after working in a Samsung LCD lab in 2003-2011.  Her workers compensation petition was denied for lack of what KCOMWEL said was “substantial evidence.”

As if in tune with the government’s policy, Samsung’s own limited and divisive compensation scheme does not cover even a single pulmonary condition.   Samsung has no plans to make the change even after KCOMWEL’s decision, according to independent news site Ohmynews.com.

Fourteen Grants and Eight Diseases

As of the latest approval, KCOMEL has granted workers compensation to 14–13 from Samsung and one from SK HYNIX–out of a total of 75 occupational-disease victims assisted by SHARPS.  The service has in effect declared the following eight diseases occupationally caused in the semiconductor industry:



Aplastic anemia

Breast Cancer

Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy

Brain tumor

Ovarian cancer

Lung cancer

 International Solidarity

Currently, two global petitions drives are under way online, urging Samsung to end worker abuse and compensate victims of its occupational disease cluster.  All visitors of this blog are encouraged to endorse them:

Samsung: End Worker Abuse and Abolish Your “No-Union” Policy Now by the International Trade Union Congress

Samsung: Pay Compensation For The Workers Who Died in Your Factories by SumOfUs

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.





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