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Archive for February, 2017

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Sharing shamanic advice?  South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. Vice Chairman Lee chatted at an economic conference in 2016.  Source: Presidential Office

Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd vice chairman now under arrest on bribery charges, must be punished to the full extent of the law if convicted, The Financial Times insisted in a February 19 editorial.

“Many in South Korea will be tempted to show him leniency,” one of the world’s most read business dailies warned. “This would be a mistake.”

“If Mr. Lee is found guilty then he must be punished to the full extent of the law,” the FT concluded.

Five Charges

On Feb. 16, special prosecutors tapped to investigate South Korean president Park Geun-hye’s influence-peddling scandal won court approval for the arrest of Lee, the 48-year old scion of the world’s largest technology firm, on five counts ranging from bribery to embezzlement to perjury to international capital flight.

On Jan. 19, the court had turned down an earlier request, citing concerns about “the residential conditions” of Lee’s detention.  The court’s widely ridiculed concerns underscored the malicious influence Samsung can exert even on judiciary integrity in South Korea.

The charges against Lee revolve on about KRW 43 billion ($37 million) in bribes and gifts he paid Choi Soon-sil, President Park’s shamanic confidante to curry political favors.  Among them were the National Pension Service’s vote in favor of a controversial merger in 2015 between two Samsung affiliates that cemented Lee’s control of Samsung Electronics.  The merger cost the fund KRW 346.8 billion ($302 million), even according to the NPS’s own estimates. 

If convicted, Lee could be sentenced to five years to life in prison.

 

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The Financial Times: “No leniency for Lee Jae-yong”   Source: website capture

 

Jay Y  Fails at Management.       

The arrest marked a fracture in the fledgling leadership of Lee, also known as Jay Y. Lee internationally.  Attempts by Samsung to burnish his career have repeatedly backfired.

In 2000, tens of Samsung affiliates used related-party transactions and direct investment to prop up Lee’s first venture, e-Samsung.  A year later, the online business went bankrupt, and the affiliates shouldered all losses.

In late 2016, after a botched global recall, Samsung discontinued production of Galaxy 7, the fire-prone smartphone promoted by Samsung as “Jae Yong phone” to highlight the scion’s heavy involvement with the device’s development.  The Galaxy fiasco dented Samsung’s reputation especially in the U.S., where most combustible phones were reported.

Jay Y  Fails in Ethics

Despite his shortcomings as business leader, Lee ascended to the helm of a corporate behemoth with $210 billion in market value through two decades of complex, oft-illicit,  stock schemes that began in 1996 with his $6 million purchase of convertible bonds of the then-de facto holding company of the Samsung conglomerate.

However, what is so pernicious about the latest accusations against Samsung is that Lee, among the country’s wealthiest citizens, used ordinary folks’ pension funds to bolster his control of a publicly traded company.

Joy and Anger

Samsung cluster victims and SHARPS activists responded to Lee’s arrest with a mix of joy and anger.  They were glad because for the first time in its 79-year history, and after 79 cluster-caused deaths, Samsung has appeared no longer to be above the law.  They remain angry.  Lee, who has never met with any cluster victims or their advocates, ingratiated himself with the president’s psychic alter-ego to pillage the retirement piggy bank of working people.

Rice cake

To celebrate Lee’s incarceration, SHARPS activists handed out rice cakes at a candlelight rally on Feb. 18, which drew some 800 thousand protesters calling for an immediate ouster of President Park and the arrest of other business honchos named in her corruption scheme.

A National Assembly hearing for SHARPS and Samsung is scheduled for Feb. 28.

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To celebrate Lee’s incarceration, SHARPS handed out rice cakes at the mass rally against President Park in Seoul on Feb. 18.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues 

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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SHARPS’s contingent at the Feb. 18 candlelight rally

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After five years of legal battle, a former Samsung employee, Kim Mi-seon won a ruling in favor of her workers compensation claims.  Her handwritten sign reads:  “Samsung must apologize, sufficiently compensate its victims and have [safety] measures in place.”

An appellate panel of Seoul’s administrative court has ruled a former Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. worker’s multiple sclerosis was caused by a combination of overwork and chemical exposure at the company’s LCD unit: the first-of-its-kind reversal of several earlier decisions that denied Samsung cluster victims workers compensation.

3.5 in 100,000

In the ruling on Feb 10, the court said the Korea Workers Compensation and Welfare Service should pay medical expenses for Kim Mi-seon, a 37-year-old former Samsung woman worker suffering from multiple sclerosis.

The condition is so rare that only 3.5 in every 100,000 Koreans fall victim to it.

Kim was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000 when she turned 20—after about three years of cleaning and soldering LCD and OLED panels 12 hours a day at Samsung Electronics’ LCD line, now part of Samsung Display Co., Ltd.  In 2013, she filed an administrative lawsuit against KCOMEL after the agency rejected her petition for workers compensation.

“[Over the period] she was exposed to acetone and organic solvents,” the ruling read.  “Kim, then under 20 of age, worked frequent night shifts in an enclosed space, which factored in her condition by limiting UV exposure.”

Four Patients

The ruling established the work relatedness of Kim’s multiple sclerosis by citing the facts that there are four confirmed cases of multiple sclerosis among former Samsung employees and that there were no other factors than her working conditions that could cause Kim’s condition.

Kim is the first victim from Samsung’s LCD unit to have successfully claimed workers compensation.  In 2012-2014, KCOMWEL or the court and turned down the claims filed by three Samsung LCD workers who contracted multiple sclerosis.

During the four years of legal procrastination, Kim’s health imploded substantially, to the point of near-complete vision loss and severe sciatica.  She is now bed-ridden.

One Out of 13  

It was Samsung, with the connivance of the government, that created a series of procedural delays.  “Samsung and its suppliers repeatedly defied court requests to provide chemical data used in LCD production,” said Lim Ja-woon, the attorney with SHARPS who represented Kim.

Since May 2013, Samsun has complied with only one out of the 13 separate disclosure requests–four of them for one supplier over the same material–filed by Lim with the court.

KCOMWEL has appealed the ruling, SHARPS learned on Feb. 27.  Twice in the past, in Nov. 2014 and Jan. 2016, the workers comp agency appealed two separate rulings in favor of two women victims assisted by the advocacy group. 

Samsung Fuels Presidential Malfeasance

Over the past four months, SHARPS emerged as a strong contingent in the weekly candlelight protests that have been lighting up central Seoul by drawing a total of more than 10 million protesters.  They have been calling for an immediate ouster of President Park Geun-hye and the arrest of Samsung’s heir apparent Lee Jae-yong for, among many other things, their collusion in an influence-peddling scheme.   

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SHARPS is an important contingent in ongoing mass protests against political corruption.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues 

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.

On Feb. 4, SHARPS seated a new statue of Semiconductor Girl, the symbol of Samsung cluster victims, at their sit-in.  Setting apart from the smaller and innocent-looking old one, the new statue bears an image of a girl in a white dirt-free suit with a piercing stare and folded arms.   

 Semiconductor Girl: Before and After

Update, Feb. 27, 2:30PM EST:  Updated to include a decision by KCOMWEL to appeal the ruling.

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