Archive for July 12th, 2017

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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.


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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