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Archive for July, 2017

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SHARPS has scored yet another legal win as a higher court in Seoul has upheld a lower-court declaration that a former Samsung employee’s disease was occupationally caused.

On July 25, 2017, the higher court threw out an appeal by the KCOMWEL and upheld a lower-court order for the agency to pay workers comp benefits to Kim Mi-seon, a 37 year-old, former LCD assembler of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. who has fallen victim to multiple sclerosis

Two Firsts

Kim’s long fight for workers comp had two firsts. She was the first multiple sclerosis victim to win an administrative court ruling in favor of her case for workers comp.  In Feb. 2017, the administrative court ruled that her condition was due to a combination of overwork and chemical exposure at Samsung’s LCD unit, which was spun off into a separate entity in 2012.  It was the first appeals victory for electronics workers suffering multiple sclerosis, the disease so rare that it affects only 3.5 in every 100,000 Koreans.

No Precedent

In July 2015, Samsung actually used the rarity of the disease and the lack of a judicial or administrative precedent to justify the lowest payout for multiple sclerosis under an already-problematic and divisive compensation scheme for the victims of its occupational disease cluster.  Also, citing the lack of medically proven data or a legal precedent, the scheme does not cover lung cancer and infertility.

Tragic Repeats

While her victory can be a gamechanger in ongoing legal proceedings and campaigns against Samsung, the 37 years old’s post-Samsung life was a repeat of many tragedies wrought upon Samsung cluster victims.

Kim was only 17 in June 1997 when she landed a job at Samsung LCD as an operator.  After three years of soldering tabs onto LCD modules and panels, in March 2000, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  In June 2000, she resigned as her condition deteriorated.

Over the 17 years since her departure from Samsung, sclerosis steadily sank her physically and financially.  She is now legally blind in dire financial need that at least once led to SHARPS making an urgent appeal for financial donations for her.

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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사본 -20160315반올림고이은주부모님 062.jpg

Lee Eun-joo’s mentally handicapped mother holds the portrait of her daughter at the funeral.  Lee was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2000, after six years of working at a Samsung chip lab.  She died in 2012.  Lee’s father became incapacitated from work due to an injury he sustained in a workplace accident when she was a young girl.   

Seoul’s higher court that has upheld a lower court ruling in favor of posthumous workers compensation payouts for a Samsung employee built its case upon Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s own data, SHARPS has learned.

Occupationally Caused Cancer

On July 7, 2017, the court ruled in favor of workers comp benefits for the bereft family of Lee Eun-joo, the former Samsung employee who died of ovarian cancer in 2012, confirming the lower court ruling that her cancer was occupationally caused.  Lee was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, after six years of gluing together silicon wafers with formaldehyde lead at a Samsung lab where she had worked since the age of seventeen.

Subpoena

The lower-court decision was crucial because it concluded that the KOSHA’s epidemiological survey was insufficiently comprehensive.  The probe turned up a variety of carcinogens and other hazards but failed to link any of them conclusively to Lee’s cancer.

The higher court went further in seeking from Samsung  the data it collected as part of its own compensation scheme.  “Samsung had to comply with the court’s request,” said Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’s in-house legal counsel.

“They knew they would be otherwise subpoenaed,” Lim added, pointing to another lawsuit. In Dec. 2016, after several rejections of its request by Samsung, the court finally issued a subpoena to the company for the data it was presumed to have collected on occupational diseases.

Ten in 165

Samsung’s own data rounded out the horrific picture of its occupational disease cluster.  As of Dec. 2016, ten out of a total of its 165 payout seekers were victims of ovarian cancer, according to court documents.  The ratio is twice as high as SHARPS’s own data, which include only seven victims of ovarian cancer out of a total of 230 former Samsung employees it has profiled.

National Statistics 

The court established the work-relatedness of Lee’s cancer by citing national statistics of ovarian cancer.  “The standardization incidence rate of ovarian cancer is 5.7 in every 100,000,” said the court.  “The same rate for women in their 20s is about 2.5 in every 100,000.”

Burden of Proof

The higher court also reaffirmed the low court’s position:  work-relatedness should be more broadly established in ways not disadvantageous to claimants when it is difficult to clearly determine the cause of ovarian cancer and other rare diseases.  “It can be inferred that work-relatedness can be established when medically or historically proven causes or factors of the disease are proven to exist in the claimant’s working environment,” the court said.

Finally, the court pointed to the unfairness of the imposition of the burden of proof upon workers in their claims for workers compensation.  “In the light of the purpose of workers compensation,” the court said.  “It is against equity and conscience to put the burden of proof on workers who are poorly positioned [in society].”

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.

torrential rain

SHARPS’s sit-in canopy in torrential rain, July 7, 2017.

 

 

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Yieunjufather

An anguished Lee Hae-cheol broke in tears in April 2013 when he filed for workers compensation posthumously for her deceased daughter, Lee Eun-joo.  She died of ovarian cancer in 2012, after six years of working at a Samsung chip lab.  The father is also a victim of a workplace accident.  On July 7, 2017, Seoul’s higher court upheld a lower-court ruling in favor of Lee’s claim.

SHARPS has scored two legal wins in a single day, achieving new momentum in its ongoing effort to hold Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd accountable for the occupational disease cluster.

Samsung LCD and Leukemia

On July 7, the KCOMWEL approved a workers compensation claim filed by a former Samsung worker, confirming that she fell victim to chronic myelogenous leukemia as a result of working at Samsung’s LCD lab.

This is the first such acknowledgement by the workers compensation agency for a worker employed in LCD production.

The 33-year-old claimant, identified only by her last name Kim at her request, began to do color filter processing as an apprentice at the LCD plant in 2002 when she was only eighteen years old.  Color filter processing involves benzene, formaldehyde, ionizing radiation, electromagnetic fields, and similar hazards.  Kim said she was exposed to these hazards with little protective gear.

By 2008, after the five years and seven months of chemical exposure and frequent night shifts, she succumbed to chronic fatigue, irregular periods, and infertility, which led to her resigning from the job.  Two years later, in 2010, she was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia.  Kim was only twenty-four years old.

Onetime and Skewed

In Oct. 2014, she filed a claim for workers compensation.  In response, in 2015-2017, the KOSHA conducted an epidemiological probe of her workplace, which it said only turned up immaterial work-relatedness.

The probe was skewed in Samsung’s favor as the KOSHA complied with the company’s request and did not allow Kim’s or her legal counsel’s presence during the probe.   This meant Samsung only showed the KOSHA investigators what it wanted to show.

On June 23, 2017, a seven-member evaluation committee reversed its earlier decision and decided in favor of Kim’s claim by a 5-2 margin.  “Although it showed low work-relatedness,” said the committee, “this onetime epidemiological survey is insufficient to determine the routine and continual exposure [of hazardous materials] sustained by the claimant.”

On July 7, 2017, the KCOMWEL officially informed Kim of the decision.

Higher Win

On the same day, Seoul’s higher court upheld a lower court decision in favor of posthumous workers comp benefits for Lee Eun-joo.  Lee died of ovarian cancer in 2012, more than ten years after her first diagnosis.  She was diagnosed with the cancer in 2000, after six years of gluing together silicon wafers with formaldehyde lead at a Samsung lab where she began to work at the age of seventeen.

The lower-court ruling was the first of its kind as it tied the work-relatedness of Lee’s cancer to working conditions at Samsung’s chip lines.

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.

 

Read Full Post »