Archive for June, 2019

han birthday.png

Han Hye-kyung, a Samsung cluster victim, 41 years old, has campaigned for ten years to receive her workers compensation

A victim of occupational disease contracted while at Samsung has won her workers compensation after ten years of efforts to get through a legal thicket often rigged in favor of corporate interests.

On June 5, Han Hye-kyung was notified of the approval of her workers compensation by KCOMWEL.  Han, now 41 years old, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 27 in 2005.  Four years earlier, in 2001, she resigned from Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., where she had handled hazardous chemicals while soldering together LCD parts for six years since 1995.  Han was only 17 years old and still in high school when she began to work at Samsung.

War of Attrition

In 2009, Han, with her single mother, Kim Si-nyeo, petitioned for workers compensation, and was quickly denied.  The mother-and-daughter duo spent the next six years fighting, until their last legal recourse was exhausted.

It was a war of attrition waged by Samsung and the government against two women who found themselves under great financial and emotional distress to prove the work-relatedness of Han’s tumor.

However, in 2017, South Korea’s supreme court ordered KCOMWEL to posthumously pay workers compensation to a Samsung worker who died of a brain tumor, shifting some of the burden of proof for work-relatedness to the corporation and the regulator, and away from workers compensation petitioners.

The landmark ruling paved the way for Han to request the re-evaluation of her workers compensation with KCOMWEL, which finally decided in her favor two years later.


Han, who makes use of a wheelchair after a botched surgery, and her mother Kim, are active members of SHARPS.  Only a few of SHARPS’ countless pickets, protests and rallies have occurred without the mother pushing the daughter’s wheelchair.  The two women withstood heat waves and cold snaps to help keep SHARPS’ sit-in going for 1,023 days in 2015-2018.  In November 2018, a once-invincible Samsung finally caved in and promised a compensation scheme for cluster victims.


In 2013, Samsung executives surreptitiously offered Kim KRW 1 billion (U$847,100) and full medical coverage upfront on condition that she and her daughter severs ties with SHARPS.  The financially drained mother was tempted, but the daughter resisted.  Emotions ran wild, and the argument became violent: the mother slapped the daughter twice across the face.  The daughter cried, “I cannot betray Lee Jong-ran.”  Lee is a labor attorney with SHARPS.  The mother soon had to admit that she couldn’t either.


To celebrate Han’s long-awaited win, SHARPS will host a small concert on June 14 in a Seoul café, where the mother and the daughter will sing an old K-pop tune, ‘The Rose.’  Just as the lyrics of the song say, they are the rose with refreshing thorny stems.

If you are lucky enough to be in Seoul on that day, you are invited (See the following poster).



Read Full Post »