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Archive for April 10th, 2019

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Lee Ga-young, 26 years old, died of lymphoma on April 8, 2019, after four years of on-the-job chemical exposure at Seoul Semiconductor, an LED maker in Ansan, Korea. While she was in her sickbed, the employer sought to have her workers compensation nullified.

A young female worker has died due to the cumulative effects of her on-the-job chemical exposure, amid threats by her employer seeking to invalidate her workers compensation.

On April 8, 2019, Lee Ga-young, 26 years old, died of malignant lymphoma, about two years after her diagnosis with the fatal condition, and about four years after she began to work at LED maker Seoul Semiconductor Co., Ltd, where she mixed mold parts since February 2015.

Chemically Drenched Death

Lee worked ten- or twelve-hour shifts mixing such high-risk, high-temperature silicone materials as OE66030A and OE6630B, which emit formaldehyde and benzene at 150°C or higher.  She was not warned of or educated on the risks of these materials.

Two years after her first diagnosis, in Sept. 2018, the malignant lymphoma returned with a vengeance.  A month later, her petition for workers compensation was approved.  However, hematopoietic stem cell transplants in Jan. 2019 turned out to be too late and too little to save her.  Lee died three months later.

Common Tragedy 

Lee’s death adds to an ongoing, commonplace tragedy in South Korea’s electronics industry, in which on-the-job chemical exposure continues to leave young workers dead or impaired while corporations shirk responsibility on the pretext of trade secrets.

However, her death came with a nasty twist.

In Jan., when Lee was probably receiving the transplants, Seoul Semiconductor filed a lawsuit seeking the nullification of her workers compensation.

It is almost impossible to understand why the world’s fifth largest LED maker made such a move against a worker who fell fatally ill while helping it generate $870 million in annual revenue.

Nothing to Win, Nothing to Lose

Management equated Lee’s workers compensation with an attempt at corporate defamation, according to SHARPS, because it considers Seoul Semiconductor a good corporation in full compliance with safety regulations.  The LED maker was not alone in attacking worker compensation petitioners.  In Jan. 2019, a new law took effect to curb the rise in these corporate abuses by delinking workers compensation payouts from rises in workers comp premiums.

Seoul Semiconductors stands little chance of winning the nullification.  However, it probably believed it had little to lose if the purpose of the lawsuit was to harass the victim in a sickbed and her family.

On April 9, in meeting with Lee’s family, a Seoul Semiconductor representative director said he would discuss at the coming management-labor meeting whether to withdraw the lawsuit.

On the morning of April 10, SHARPS issued an open letter to the management and labor council of the company, calling for the company to withdraw the lawsuit.  Seoul Semiconductor said in the afternoon it would comply with the demand.

 

 

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