Archive for July 24th, 2018

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It’s been so long overdue that it’s looked hopelessly far off.  However, the day finally has come—Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd has agreed to a binding arbitration framework that will likely compel the world’s most powerful corporation to fully compensate and earnestly apologize to victims of its occupational-disease clusters.

On July 21, Samsung said it would unconditionally act on an arbitration proposal that a once-crippled mediation committee will make by October.  “With a willingness to be ought to seek a solution,” a Samsung spokesman, Kim Jeong-seok told the TV network SBS. “We have decided to accept the proposal by the mediation committee.”

SHARPS also agreed to the proposal.

Samsung did an about-face.

Chaired by a third party and a retired supreme court judge, Kim Ji-hyung, the mediation committee was formed in 2014 when SHARPS and Samsung began their first negotiations.  In July 2015, Samsung, in effect, disabled the committee by rejecting the committee’s proposal for an independent compensation scheme.  The conglomerate has since ended negotiations and launched its own compensation program—all which prompted SHARPS to stage a sit-in at its corporate headquarters in south Seoul.     

Binding Samsung

On July 18, in its last-ditch attempt, the mediation committee upped the ante and proposed a binding arbitration process.  It went further in declaring that it would dissolve itself if either party did not accept the proposal.  The following are highlights although details must be worked out in the next three months:

  • Samsung will begin to put in place safety measures proposed by the mediation committee by October 2018.
  •  Samsung will make a formal apology proposed by the committee by October 2018
  •  Samsung will compensate SHARPS-profiled victims under a new scheme proposed by the committee by October 2018.
  •  Samsung will compensate new victims for the next ten years after it pays its first compensation under the new scheme.
  • SHARPS will end its sit-in within days of the formal signing of the proposal for arbitration.

The three parties will sign the proposal on July 24, Korean time.  SHARPS plans to hold a rally on July 25, declaring an end to the sit-in that began on Oct 8, 2015.

Too Late? Never!

A variety of local media reports have pointed to Samsung’s need to soothe public sentiment ahead of a pending supreme court ruling for Lee Jae-yong, the rising heir of the Samsung empire who was convicted of corruption and bribery, then released earlier this year with a suspended jail term.

“Lee Jae-yong awaits trial for his bribery charges,” said Hwang Sang-ki, a SHARPS founder and father of Hwang Yu-mi,  the first publicly known victim of the Samsung cluster, in an interview with the TV network JTBC.  “Addressing the occupational disease issue has nothing to do with his bribery charges.”  Hwang went on saying: “I have nothing to say because the occupational disease issue has nothing to do with Lee’s trial.”

“The state of affairs has been prolonged because of Samsung,” said Kyunghyang, an independent daily, in an editorial on July 22.  “By accepting the proposal for arbitration, Samsung showed its willingness to proactively solve the current state of affairs.”

“Samsung has been bent solely upon shirking its responsibility,” said Hankyoreh, another independent newspaper in its editorial.  “It must be made clear that addressing the leukemia crisis [at Samsung] and Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-yong’s court trial are two separate issues.”

SHARPS will release comments after signing the proposal.

On Victims

As of June 2018, SHARPS has profiled 320 victims of Samsung’s cluster. Among them 118 have died.  The advocacy group has, via petition or through court filings, successfully assisted 28 victims of Samsung and others in getting workers compensation.


The following is a full, near-direct translation of the mediation committee’s proposal for the arbitration process.  All brackets ([ ]) are added to aid readability:   


Second Arbitration Proposal by the Mediation Committee to Settle Issues of Leukemia and Other Workplace Diseases at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.  

July 18, 2018


The Purpose and Goal of the Proposal

The Mediation Committee to Settle Issues of Leukemia and Other Workplace Diseases at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Mediation Committee”) has been proceeding with mediation regarding three items on the mediation agenda–an apology [by Samsung], compensation and preventive measures [regarding occupational hazards]—for the three parties, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Samsung”), Supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (hereinafter, “SHARPS”), and the Family Settlement Committee (hereinafter, “Settlement Committee”) since Dec. 18, 2014, when the first mediation process began.  

On July 23, 2015 the Mediation Committee unveiled an arbitration proposal, which led to an amicable agreement between Samsung and Settlement Committee over compensation and an apology.  In particular, regarding preventive measures, mediation continued until Jan. 12, 2016 when the three parties agreed in writing to preventive measures.

However, except for preventive measures, Samsung and SHARPS (hereinafter referred to as “the two parties”) have found themselves at loggerheads over the other remaining two items, despite a variety of attempts by the Mediation Committee at a variety of forms of mediation.

Heavily weighed down by the responsibility for its failure to bring the two parties to final agreement, the Mediation Committee could no longer leave the situation as it stood and concluded it should rightly provide an opportunity for a new solution. After contacting Samsung and SHARPS, the committee confirmed that the two parties basically agreed to restart mediation.

Since the rise of semiconductor-pertinent health issues in our society, not only academic and social debates but also court and KCOMWEL rulings have emerged regarding industrial injury treatment and compensation approval. Every workplace has accumulated experience of [occupational] disease support, compensation formation, and distribution.

Accordingly, after reviewing issues and demands raised during the first period of mediation and comparing them with occupational-disease compensation schemes of the three semiconductor makers—Samsung, SK Hynix and LG Display—the Mediation Committee concluded that a social consensus, tacit or otherwise, has been formed, or the rift in opinion has narrowed over many of the issues, which has in turn substantially improved the possibility of an agreement [between the two parties].

Nevertheless, it is confirmed that there is still a difference in opinion between the two parties.  While from its own objective point of view, the Mediation Committee concluded that the difference can be reconciled acceptably by the two parties, after the mediation process, the committee has come to entirely understand that it is not an issue that is easily accepted by the two parties.  Therefore,the Mediation Committee concluded it cannot be easily addressed through mediation—[indeed] practically impossible.

Meanwhile, the Mediation Committee has confirmed that the two parties have not abandoned their willingness to reach a settlement despite the differences in opinion and that there is continual [public] interest in and support for the Mediation Committee from many sectors of society because the issue is of significant meaning as part of a [broader] social agenda. More, the Mediation Committee had to renew its awareness of the desperate need to come up with a more creative and productive solution as part of fulling not only an immediate social agenda but also a future common social value.

Accordingly, the Mediation Committee decided to restart the once-suspended mediation process and proposes that the process be replaced by arbitration, in which Mediation Chair would provide an [binding] arbitration proposal for the two parties to accept.

Proposal: Principles and Foundation

Before the second mediation/arbitration period, the two parties should agree to comply with the arbitration proposal. The process will move forward on condition of the success of the arbitration. The Mediation Committee will assume that there the parties have no willingness to entrust it with powers to arbitrate, declare an end to the process and dissolve itself if either party rejects the proposal.

The Mediation Committee Chair will put his best effort into formulating q rational proposal based on the spirit of compromise by considering the two parties’ demands and allegations in an inclusive way that would not undermine the core values each party attempts to safeguard.

Regarding points of contention, the Mediation Committee will secure objectivity and rationality through discussion and examination in consultation with [third party] authoritative experts.

The arbitration proposal will include practical guidance for the common goal members of our society should achieve in order to pursue future common values.

Methods and Contents of the 2nd Mediation/Arbitration Process 

Methods. The second mediation period will proceed under agreement by the two parties:  Prior to the period, the two parties will comply with the proposal by Mediation Committee Chair; and it will be proceeded with on condition the proposal be completely acted upon.

Disclosure and Confidentiality.

Procedural Disclosure and Confidentiality

Proposal for second-period initiation will be disclosed

The signing by the three parties—Samsung, SHARPS, Mediation Committee—of the arbitration proposal will be disclosed

Discussion of the proposal and preparations are confidential

The final proposal and its signing ceremony will be disclosed

Individual compensation and its details will be confidential

Key takeaways of the arbitration proposal

New compensation scheme for occupational diseases

– A new scheme, set to be enacted on the effect date of the arbitration proposal, includes entitlements for recipients, scope of the diseases and metrics for compensation.  Accordingly, a new compensation commission will be formed.

-Compensation for Victims represented by SHARPS

– For victims represented by SHARPS (and for separate entitlement criteria)  a compensation scheme will be formed (Based on Samsung’s already-existing compensation scheme and the new scheme, the Mediation Committee Chair will finalize the payouts)

An apology by Samsung

– Samsung will accept an apology proposal—based on the mediation proposal—made by the Mediation Committee as part of arbitration

SHARPS’s end of the sit-in

Upon agreeing to the arbitration process, SHARPS will end the sit-in within days.

Preventive Measures and CSR

– The Mediation Committee will devise schemes to improve working conditions at semiconductor plants and to support safety management of [Samsung’s] contractors and the electronics industry for Samsung and the government.

Procedures and Timetable. The second period will be proceeded with as promptly as possible. Any inevitable change or modification to the progress of the process will be duly notified to the two parties.

Proposed Timetable

July 18. Proposal for Arbitration is released from Mediation Committee to Samsung and SHARPS

July 21.  Reply from Samsung and SHARPS to the Mediation Committee

July 24.  Signing of the proposal for arbitration

August-September.  Discussion and Preparations for an arbitration proposal

September-early October.  Signing of the arbitration proposal.

October. Compensation will be released to SHARPS-profiled victims

Effective in Oct.  2018, a third compensation commission is formed to compensate victims in the next ten years.

Closing remarks

It’s been a considerably long time since the Mediation Committee was formed. Thanks to the virtue of concession and compromise exhibited by the parties involved, some accomplishments were made. However, the pain and agony of the directly involved parties outweigh what’s been accomplished because there are still too a considerable number of unsolved issue for the accomplishments to be touted. The Mediation Committee has felt remorse and regret for its failure to accomplish its mission, despite its own perception of the current issue as part of  a significant social agenda and a public plea for an amicable solution.

The Mediation Committee has now dismissed these negative thoughts and started anew with an attempt at arbitration as a way to reach agreement. This is how the committee would assist the two parties in bringing their shining efforts to magnificent fruition. This is because in addition to the direct parties, for those who on the quiet supported and showed interest [in the Mediation Committee]  An amicable solution should become part of the future common value pursued by our society.

As discussed at the initiation of the Mediation Committee, the solution should be led by the parties directly involved. The Mediation Committee decided to make an arbitration proposal because the parties should inevitably make certain degrees of compromise and concession. Most of all, this is because the current issue is not only a temporary issue between the parties, but also an issue pertaining to the health of all working people in our society.  Therefore, the Mediation Committee has to consider rational criteria that can be used for any future [occupational disease] victims to receive appropriate assistance.

The Mediation Committee holds the current issue not as one for the two parties and itself as a substantial issue that should be addressed societally. Mediation Committee seek all your support to make the arbitration a success.

I, the Chair, will, with my initial intention in mind, do my best to create an amicable solution  in in the interests of the two parties.  I hope the two parties take the intention of the Mediation Committee as it is and set the arbitration process in motion promptly.  I earnestly hope a good outcome comes along and makes a chapter in history.  I look forward to responses from the two parties.

Thank you,

Kim Ji-hyung,

Chair, Mediation Committee




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