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Archive for the ‘About the Campaign’ Category

New victims from other companies

Recently SHARPs was able to get some information of several cancer victims of different companies from Samsung.

One of them is Kim Jin-ki, 38 year-old male worker of Magna-chip semiconductor in Cheongjoo City, which used to be a part of Hynix Semiconductor.

The press conference in front of KCOMWEL Cheongjoo office on Sep 8. The woman in center is Yim Jinsook, the wife of Kim, with the picture of Kim.

He used to work for 14 years as a maintenance engineer of an ion implanter (the facility for implantation of ion as Arsenic or Phosphorus into the silicon wafer), being exposed to various chemicals and radiation. He got leukemia last year, and several years before he got a thyroid disease too. He died on May 28, due to the graft-versus-host-reaction after a bone marrow transplantation. He had been healthy before he got the diseases from his workplace. There is no familial history of cancer in his parents and his two brothers.

SHARPs with some local activists and a labor attorney prepared his application for workers’ compensation. We made a press conference together on September 8, when his wife applied for compensation to the government.

The second victim we discovered was from the medium-sized company, Kijoo industrial Co. in Incheon City, one of the suppliers of LG and Samsung, manufacturing PCB for those big companies.

The victim’s name is Park Sung Chul, born in 1977 in China. His family used to be the “Chosun-jok”, the Korean people in China, and he recently came back to Korea and got the new nationality as a South Korean.

But he and all his family have been living as ‘migrant’ workers. That’s why Park who had graduated university of economics had to work as a blue collar worker, in the cleansing and plating process using various chemicals.

After three years of work, he got leukemia. The heart-breaking story is he had given up further treatment after three times of chemotherapy. He had been recommended bone marrow transplantation, but he refused all kinds of therapy… due to the lack of money… The family of migrant workers was too poor to support all the treatment. So he had been lying in his home under his old mother’s care, and died on September 22.

His uncle had tried to find out someone who can help them for workers’ compensation, and through a local NGO he could meet the Korean Metal Workers Union. On August 10, Korean Metal Workers Union put in a collective compensation application of many cancer victims including Park. His cancer and death show all the typical problems in workers’ claiming their right to safety and health.

SHARPs activities

The poster for the website of Bahn-dahl 2011. You can see the faces doing 'Ho~' on the left.

SHARPs has been making a concentrated series of public activities under that name every year, at the end of July. In the Korean language, the abbreviation of that name is “Bahn-Dahl” which has the same pronunciation as “half-moon”. So  the symbol of these actions is the half-moon.

This year, we’ve changed the Bahn-Dahl into six weeks of action, under the slogan of “Ho~”.

The “Ho~” means the motion of blowing a breath, usually to cool down hot food for child or to reduce pain of a wound. It can be used when people try to comfort pain of others, both physically and mentally. This slogan was made for waking up the heart of solidarity that people have within themselves, and for making a space for us to tell them what is the real pain of the victims and what must be done to relieve it.

We will gather signatures demanding;

1. to compensate the victims right now (and accept and follow the court decision and withdraw the appeal),

2. to disclose all the information. Especially, the government agencies like OSHRI in KOSHA must reveal their research results according to the law on public organizations’ disclosuree of information. Also we are demanding the right to participate in the relevant research.

3. and to take the responsibility on the part of the government and the company. Especially, the government must make   to improve the working environment to guarantee workers’ safety and health, covering all the electronic sector.

Bahn-Dahl was begun on September 21 in Suwon city where the major Samsung semiconductor factories are located. Off-line activities of Bahn-Dahl is mainly a candle-light rally once a week with some cultural performances like songs, dances, and short movies, at Busan, Suwon, Seoul, Cheonan, and Cheongju cities.

On-line activities include internet petition-signing to a demand letter, which will go on till October and finally be made into a formal protest letter to the government and Samsung.

Here are some photos of the first Bahn-Dahl in front of Suwon Station

The Lawsuits

The first group of five leukemia and lymphoma victims have filed the lawsuit against government’s refusal to compensate; all the cases went to the high court on July 14, and now are in the course of preparing documents.

The second group of victims in the lawsuit is composed of four victims with different diseases like brain tumor (Han Hyekyoung, Samsung LCD), aplastic anemia (You Myoungwha, Samsung semiconductor), multiple sclerosis (Lee Heejin, Samsung semiconductor), and malignant brain cancer (Lee Yoonjeong, Samsung semiconductor); they are each in the course of court processes. Two of them, You Myoungwha and Lee Yoonjeong, are from the same department of Burn-in test in Samsung semiconductor factory at Onyang City.

The press conference of second group lawsuit is at the Seoul administrative court. (from the left) Han Hyekyoung (brain tumor, Samsung LCD), her mother, two lawyers, You Youngjong, the father of You Myounghwa (aplastic anemia, Samsung semiconductor), Jeong Heesoo, the husband of Lee Yoonjeong (brain cancer, Samsung semiconductor).

The Victims

At present, SHARPs has gathered the information of about 150 victims, among which there are around 50 deaths. The exact number needs to be calculated and updated again.

The number who have applied for national workers’ compensation through SHARPs is 21, including one Magna-chip worker. Of these 21 cases, 18 of them have been decided by KCOMWEL  to NOT be compensated, and others are still in the process of decision.

Lee Yoon-jeong, who had been diagnosed with malignant brain cancer in 2010 and been sentenced to be able to live only one year by the doctor, fell again recently. Her cancer couldn’t be removed fully. She gets chemotherapy again now, but the prognosis doesn’t seem to be good. We are praying for her survival with the least suffering. Her age is 31 now.

Han Haekyoung, the severely disabled women after removal of a huge tumor from her cerebellum since 2005, has been hospitalized in ‘Green Hospital’ for free to get rehabilitation treatment. However she and her mother have been suffering from poverty because none of them can work for money. SHARPs has been supporting the least money for their life every month for more than two years, by collecting money from many nameless contributors.

As the number of victims becomes bigger, the types and depth of pain of them which must be shared by the whole society become more serious. Many of the victims and their families need either economical or psychological support, or both.

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In a blow to Samsung Electronics, a court ruled yesterday that the deaths of two employees at Samsung’s semiconductor plant should be considered an industrial accident and that Samsung should compensate their families accordingly.

The two workers died of leukemia, and their families filed for industrial accident compensation with Korean Workers’ Compensation and Welfare (KWCW) three years ago, claiming their illness had been caused by exposure to harmful elements at the plant.

But KWCW refused the claim, saying it saw no direct link between leukemia and the semiconductor plant. That prompted the families to file a lawsuit in January of last year.

The Seoul Administrative Court said in a ruling yesterday: “Although it is unclear exactly how Hwang and Lee caught leukemia, it can be construed that their exposures to dangerous chemicals and radiation were catalysts, at the very least. Thus it’s safe to conclude there is a link between leukemia and the workplace.”

The court added that research by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency proves that workers at chip facilities have higher risk of cancers of the lymphatic system and leukemia, which shows environmental factors had an effect on their diseases.

But the court did not acknowledge such a link for two other workers and a family member of a late worker, citing a lack of evidence.

Samsung said it plans to appeal. A Samsung official told Yonhap, “The ruling goes against the results of investigations by a state-approved organization on semiconductor plants’ occupational environment,” adding that it will soon have results from another independent study.

The civic group Banollim, formed to protect rights of semiconductor workers, claims 20 workers at the plant suffered from leukemia or cancer, with nine deaths since 1998.

Samsung maintains that there are no such risks at its plant, citing an investigation by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency in 2007 and 2008, which concluded it’s unlikely that the plant caused the diseases.

In June, Samsung said that it commissioned an independent, yearlong safety study to examine health risks at its semiconductor plant, which will be led by Environ, an environment and health consultancy, and carried out with input from some 20 academic experts.

By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

(original article: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2937990)

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Message to readers from SHARPs:

On 23 June, the final decision of the Seoul Administrative court on the lawsuit raised by five blood cancer victims in Samsung semiconductor factories in South Korea was announced.

The judge concluded that two cases of leukemia in workers who had been operators in Giheung factory, Hwang Yumi and Lee Sookyoung, can be regarded as related to the working conditions, even though there is no concrete evidence of expsure to carcinogen.

And the judge accepted almost all the arguments of the plaintiffs on the work-relatedness.

So we, SHARPs, welcome this decision of the court, but we cannot but emphasize the limitation of it.

The explanation of the court on their decision of not accepting the other three cases as occupational diseases still show a kind of serious limitation.

We will point those things out clearly as soon as possible when we get the document of final decision, and continue to fight to overcome those limitations for the right of workers.

Please share this good news with many people, and send some soludarity message to us, the victims and the activists of SHARPs, who decided to fight together until all the victims  can achieve their right to their health!

SHARPs

Following are related media reports:

Court orders compensation for Samsung employees who died of leukemia

(from Korea Herald)

SEOUL, June 23 (Yonhap) — A Seoul court ordered compensation for the families of two young Samsung Electronics employees who died of leukemia, recognizing for the first time a link between leukemia and working in a computer chip-making line.

The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of the families, who requested the court annul the Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Services’ 2009 decision not to pay compensation and funeral expenses for the deaths. The state-run worker welfare agency delivered the decision, refusing to acknowledge their deaths as workplace disasters.

The latest ruling reversed the agency’s decision, acknowledging the influence of the working conditions at Samsung Electronics on the workers’ deaths.

“Although the cause of the employees’ leukemia has yet to be determined clearly on a scientific basis, it is presumable that their constant exposure to toxic chemicals and ionizing radiation had caused or, at least, expedited the illness,” a panel of judges said. “It is fit to say there is a link between their leukemia and their careers.”

One of the two female workers, surnamed Hwang, died in 2007 at the age of 22 due to acute myeloid leukemia after being diagnosed with the illness in 2005 following her two years of work at a production line, based in Gyeonggi Province, for wafers used to make semiconductors.

The second employee, surnamed Lee, had a 10-year career at the same factory before dying of the same type of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 30.

“Given that they carried out cleaning duties on unautomated production facilities at the most worn-out place of the No. 3 bay of the No. 3 line, they seemed to have been exposed to a greater influence of toxic materials,” the judge panel said, referring to the same spot they both worked at.

Similar lawsuits against the agency and the company are expected to follow the court decision, which is the first to tie working conditions at the world’s largest memory chip maker to employee deaths.

Meanwhile, the administrative court dismissed three similar requests by the family of another dead worker and two former employees, each suffering from lymphoma and leukemia.

The court did not acknowledge the work-illness link in the cases of the two ailing people and the husband of the dead woman, who all worked at different production lines.

Samsung, which has strongly denied that its production lines pose risks of cancers, refused to accept the Seoul court’s ruling.

“The ruling shows different results from previous investigations conducted by a state agency,” the company’s spokesman Park Chun-ho said by phone. “As the ruling is not final, we will try to clear suspicions through continuing trials.”

He added that Samsung will announce this summer the result of a one-year investigation of semiconductor lines that’s currently under way by a group of overseas experts.

(original article at: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20110623000960)

 

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Han Hye-gyoung, former Samsung worker, suffering from a brain tumour

Han Hye-kyeong, a 33-year-old Samsung Electronics liquid crystal display (LCD) plant employee suffering from a brain tumor, left, says Thursday at a news conference held at the Seoul Central District Court, “Samsung Electronics management should apologize to the victims.”

Han worked soldering circuit boards for six years and argued, “We manufacturing workers also have a right to know about how bad the toxic materials are.”

Four victims of occupational disease in Samsung Electronics plants including Han filed an administrative lawsuit against the Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service (KComWel) as the KComWel rejected their request for medical treatment due to industrial accidents.

On that day, Banollim, a civic organization for semiconductor plant workers’ health and human rights, released a report detailing the rate of occupational disease for employees of Samsung Electronics and Samsung Electro-Mechanics. According to the report, of the 120 workers who notified the organization of their disease since November of 2007, 56 reported contracting cancer of the blood forming system such as leukemia. Brain tumor accounted for eight, followed by aplastic anemia at 6, breast cancer at 5 and skin cancer at 4.

(Photo by Kim Myoung-jin, Story by Hwang Chun-hwa)

Original article at:

http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_entertainment/472048.html

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Korean people like the number “three”.  

In Korea, when we fail or are disappointed, we encourage ourselves quoting a common saying “don’t give up until the third trial”.

The funeral usually takes three days. Even though I don’t know the exact historical base, but we feel the “three” as a complete, comfortable number.

However, today is the ninetieth day from Joohyun’s death. He was twenty-five years old when he entered Samsung LCD as an engineer. His family still remembers how much he was happy to be a “Samsung-man”.

78th day of picketting in front of the plant - Joohyun's father

But Joohyun’s dream was totally destroyed.

Joohyun had suffered from skin disease due to chemicals which he could not know even the names of. So he had to move from the production line into a material supplying department.

But as before, he had to work more than 12 hours a day. He had to go to work whenever he got a call, even on holidays.

Also he was totally isolated  in his dormitory. There was no one with whom he could talk about because all the room mates had different work shift schedules. Moreover, more than three hundreds of cameras were watching everywhere to prevent workers assemblying.

Finally he got depression.

During the sick leave for two months, he looked to overcome his illness. But as the day to return to work was coming, he became irritable and anxious again.

A few days before the end of his sick leave, Joohyun visited the company to get counseling. After coming back from the company, he told his family that he should return to work, in the production line again. There was no other choice but to return to work – if he refused, he must quit his job.

52th day protesting at Samsung HQ - Joohyun's sister

The day was the first day of returning to work. Joohyun couldn’t sleep at all. He wandered here and there in the dormitory, and all his activities were recorded by hundreds cameras – even his four attempts to jump to his death.

Where is the justice?

Joohyun’s family have been demanding Samsung to apologize and take responsible action, because both Joohyun’s depression and death were not just individual problems.

According to the law, the company should:

– not force workers to work such a long time

– not force a sick worker to work in ain improper job

– guarantee the safety of workplaces and dormitories

– prevent workers’ physical and mental illness from working condition

So the family asked the local office of Ministry of Labor to investigate Joohyun’s working conditions, and to the police to investigate what had happened on the very day of Joohyun’s death.

At first, the response from both governmental organizations were the same: silence and ignorance. To tell a long story briefly, it took 90 days for them to do what they must do.

Recently, the local office of MOL have found a few illegal practices of Samsung, a small but clear evidence that can show the working conditions in Samsung plants are not different from that of a sweatshop. Finally, they will send the documents to the public prosecution office tomorrow.

That’s the reason why the family of Joohyun could not carry out his funeral until now. They just want to see where the justice is. And it has taken 90 days from his death…

84th protest visit to the Ministry of Labor

Today, Joohyun’s father told me:

“I think this is a new beginning. My family have already been tired so much, but we can’t stop here. We must watch the prosecutor. I told my wife and daughter that we must keep fighting, and that don’t forget what we have been demanding – our demand is that Samsung must apologize and take their responsibility for my son’s death.”

April 20 will be the 100th day from Joohyun’s death.

Let’s demand Samsung to get responsibility.

Let’s demand the Korean government to do their duty to watch the company and to punish its illegal practice.

Let’s add our voices to this lonely struggle of family who lost their youngest one.

Please think and act whatever you can add your voices to this struggle before the 100th day is coming.

Justice for all can’t be achieved without justice for the weakest people.

In solidarity,

SHARPs
For an earlier account of the suicide and later struggles of Joohyun’s family, see this previous post.

written by Jeong-ok Kong  (+82-10-9140-6249, anotherkong@gmail.com)
Supporters for Health And Rights of People in Semiconductor Industry (SHARPs)

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Lee Gun-hee, Lee Jae-yong, and Choi, Gee-sung (heads of Samsung conglomerate and Samsung Electronics), do you know that two workers committed suicide from their dormitory in January this year??

In the chill weather in the flowering season the bereaved family of Kim Joo-hyun are keeping up their protest in front of the headquarters of the company and condemning the inhumanities of the Samsung corporate dynasty.

March 24 was the day come again to place where this chairman was restored to his position by the Lee Myungbak President, after his conviction. We had remembered this day and some guests join the protest.

Mr Lee Kiho who had been imprisoned for one and a half years because of the Ssangyong Motors strike and ‘Orange’ who works as an activist at Dasan Human Rights Center, came to express solidarity. Also there was Kim Jong-tae, who was fired from Suwon Samsung Electronics because he posted on the electronic bulletin board that Samsung worker should set up a union; and the victims of the Guacheon eviction.

The mother of Kim Joo-hyun said “My son had lived only 25 years. He is more precious than your whole company. It has been 73 days after he died, we want to have his funeral! ceremony. Somebody has to show the responsibility and apologize to the family!” There are many unjust deaths in Korea in this final stage of capitalism. But if the only bereaved families protest about this issue and if we do not try to make a union because we are afraid of the power of the company, there is no bright future for the democracy for all.

Summarized from March 24, KCTU website (in Korean)- http://nodong.org/592486

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One of the latest of a long string of victims of anti-union South Korean conglomerate Samsung, is Samsung LCD facility engineer Kim Joo-hyun, who died by committing suicide on January 11, 2011. He was 25 years old (26 in the Korean way of counting age). Since then it has been more than 50 days. His family – his parents and his elder sister – have been postponing the burial of Joo-hyun’s body until now, as expression of their expectation of justice. Joo-hyun’s body remains at the morgue.

The family’s first demand is an apology. Because the day that he fell from the 13th floor of his Samsung worker dormitory, there were 300 cameras around the dormitory, recording everything.

Just after his death, his father went to the police and they showed him an edited video. They explained to him that he had fallen himself, and that thus it was suicide, not murder. The family spent 10 more days, trying to get the raw, unedited footage of the surveillance video. And they found that actually, he had tried four times to jump. The first two times, he tried and gave up himself, returning to his room. But the third time, when he was at the edge of the balcony on the 13th floor, he was found by another person in the dormitory. That person called the Crisis Help Centre (an office inside Samsung), and then 3-4 men came and persuaded him and escorted him to go back to his room on the 6th floor. But inexplicably, after talking with him a few minutes, the men left the room, leaving him there – alone. After another 10 minutes, Joo-hyun came out – and succeeded in jumping and falling to his death.

After realizing this from the raw videos, the family asked:

1)   Why did the company let him try repeatedly?

2)   Why did the men leave Joo-hyun alone?

3)   Why did they not even call his family or other friends? Joo-hyun had his cellphone.

But Samsung until now has given no answer.

The family’s targets are Samsung, the police and the Ministry of Labor. Kim Joo-hyun worked 12-15 hours a day. He couldn’t rest even on his holidays. He would get calls from the factory to come to work, as if he was on call (though his job is not of an on-call nature). He could not sleep or rest enough. He only visited his hometown one to two times a month, sometimes even only once in two months.

His suicide can be considered suicide from overwork – karo-jisatsu in Japanese, something which can be legally compensated in Japan.

Joo-hyun’s hardship at Samsung

Joo-hyun had been at Samsung for about one year. He had joined Samsung in November 2009 to work as a facility engineer in the fab (fabrication) department of Samsung LCD factory; he was to keep the machines running smoothly.

He had severe skin problems and signs of depression by the time he committed suicide. Just a month or two after he began work in the ‘clean room’, he began to get mild symptoms of atopic dermatitis (like eczema), but it soon became very severe, especially on the side of his legs. When he showed his painful legs to his father in July, his father could see the top layer of skin was very damaged, and even discharging some liquid. It was very itchy and painful for Joo-hyun. He finally requested to change his job duties, and was re-assigned to another location and job in the factory. But in the new department also, he got severely stressed. The supervisors abused him, especially looking down on him for his education level, as he was a graduate of a two-year college.

Moreover, from the beginning of his job, even when he had been working in the clean room, he was forced to write a 20-page report immediately the day after, if there was ever any mistake or damage to the equipment. Thus, even after working extremely long hours and while suffering from skin damage and abuse from superiors at the workplace, he would have to go home and stay up to write the 20-page report. The treatment of workers in the factory was like towards soldiers, or children – typical of many Samsung factories, and apparently of many electronics factories, even in China and Taiwan.

Family and supporters protest

Since a few days after Joo-hyun’s death, Joo-hyun’s family members have been picketing every morning in front of the Samsung LCD factory; they have been doing so for more than 40 days. They also picket near the dormitory, usually in the afternoon, but have not been allowed to go inside anymore. The family and supporter have also recently begun to picket one hour a day during the week, in front of Samsung Headquarters.

SHARPs and KCTU have also written to and protested to the government and police to demand a thorough investigation. The sad death of young Joo-hyun is only one in a long string of tragic deaths of young Samsung workers in South Korea.

Monday, February 28, 2011, was the 49th day since the death of Joo-hyun. It is the day when it is traditionally believed that a soul will return to heaven. The family of Joo-hyun and their supporters conducted a ceremony at Chun-an Station square, to commemorate Joo-hyun’s death and call for the public to join in demanding Samsung take responsibility.

Samsung’s non-response

Strangely (or not), Samsung has kept silent in response to the family’s pleas. Yet every morning at 8 a.m., and steadily in rotating shifts until 10 p.m., a man can be found keeping the family in surveillance at the funeral hall where Joo-hyun’s funeral had been held.

Samsung and LG’s LCD factories

Having a dormitory for workers is not very common in Korea. Yet Samsung built a huge dormitory which houses at least several hundred workers.

Just 8 days earlier, another Samsung worker had committed suicide, jumping from another place in the dormitory. She was 23 years old. In the Samsung dormitory, an apartment has three rooms, and three workers stay in each room. The number of apartments per floor is not exactly known, but there are at least 13 floors.

It is quite possible that suicides have been happening in other factories such as in LG. However LG’s main workforce is dispatch (temporary) workers, and they do have a union, at least in form. On the other hand, Samsung’s main workforce is regular (formal) workers, and Samsung is adamantly anti-union. Samsung workers thus usually work longer, generally expecting to work for their life in the company.  But with no way to handle the grievance between union and company, the family must appeal to the public. In spite of the public appeals, Samsung has remained unresponsive – only making itself appear more culpable.

Samsung workers should be happy and enjoying their work for a great brand and pride of the nation, but instead they have been suffering and dying in increasing numbers, shushed by the company and even ignored by government authorities. We appeal to the public who reads this blog, to let more people know about what happened to Kim Joo-hyun, as well as the others whose stories have been shared here. Only through such support and solidarity can the small Davids of Samsung worker victims fight against the Goliath of anti-union Samsung conglomerate and the South Korean government for justice.

We urge you to leave your messages of condolence and solidarity to the grieving family of Kim Joo-hyun in the comments. We will translate them and share with his family.

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