Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

* Image source: Ku Do-Hee, Voice of People, Feb. 4, 2011
‘portrait of Kim Joo-Hyun, the deceased Samsung worker in mortuary

* Image source: Samsung General Labor Union, Jan. 26, 2011

‘ Workers and activists has been doing relay one-man protest in front of the Samsung factories of Suwon and Cheonan, every Wednesday, to demand the withdrawal of unjust lay-off of a worker who claimed for company’s acknowledgement on labor union.’


Despite New Year holidays (Feb. 2 to 6) in lunar calendar in Korea, there are people who cannot enjoy them. The bereaved family members of the deceased Mr. Kim, Joo-Hyun, a worker in the Samsung Electronics LCD, City of Cheonan are part of those.

Even though, it was Jan. 11 when Mr. Kim Joo Hyun made suicide by jumping from the rooftop of the factory dormitory, his family members are still keeping mortuary where his portrait is still being placed on, demanding acknowledgement and apology from Samsung for the cause of Kim’s death. The investigation on the cause of his death, such as excessive working time and on company’s negligence on his suicide has been still going on as well, the Voice of People reports.

The Stop Samsung blog has reported on Jan. 14:

‘He suffered from skin disease due to chemicals and depression because of severe job stress. This shocking news is even more disturbing since it follows a rash of similar suicides by young workers at the Foxconn factory in China and inspires us to increase our determination to bring justice for the Samsung workers and families. He is the second suicide at Samsung this month! See the article by Elizabeth Grossman HERE for more background and details. In memory of Kim Joo hyun, we ask that you join the Samsung Accountability Campaign on the Causes page HERE.’

For Samsung workers’ occupational death and protests, see HERE and HERE as well.

Samsung is not only infamous for its no-labor union policy but also for its omnipotent abuse of power throughout South Korea. The Republic of Korea is called as the Samsung Republic in satire.

Samsung is also involving in Korea Aerospace industries along with Hyundae (The current president Lee Myung-Bak is originally from Hyundae) and Daewoo etc., producing and exporting many weapon systems, for example its branch, Samsung Tales leading maker and exporter of naval combat systems.

It has been alarming when the Jeju media (Jeju Sori1, Jeju Sori 2, Media Jeju)  reported that the Jeju Island government had made contract for partnership with Samsung C & T to achieve export of 1trillion won on Jan. 21, 2011.

It reported that the Jeju Island and Samsung made contact to collaborate on scouting for bright export goods, supporting for foreign marketing and inheriting on export know-how for the Jeju Island government officers.

The Samsung C & T is told to be the matrix of Samsung with its total sale price exceeding 10 trillion 876 billion won last year, which is near four times of the Jeju Island budget this year. It was also told that all the information and resources acquired during the process of execution on the agreement conclusion would be ‘absolute secrete.’

Further, the Samsung C & T has made contract with the navy for the naval base construction along with Daerim who is involving the construction on space museum thorough its consortium. The Samsung C & T is also being involved in KEPCO (Korea Electric Power Corporation) consortium along with the KEPCO, Hyundae and Doosan Industry, which has made contract with the United Arab Emirates on nuclear power plant in Dec. , 2009.

Jan. 21 was the next day when the Jeju media reported the contradictory decision by the members of the special committee on the settlement of the conflict on naval base, Island Council, who were told to decide to urge the prime minister for earlier legislation on the revised bill on the Jeju special law which included the support basis on the Jeju naval base, while 40% of the members had voiced on the unjust process on the annulment of the absolute preservation areas in the Gangjeong village.

The Samsung, supporting the drive by the central and Jeju Island government, Jeju Island Council for Jeju being one of the seven wonders of nature, is grasping the Jeju Island, as it has wielded power throughout South Korea. Please watch Samsung. Please boycott Samsung product in your countries and if you can, protest on its oppression of workers and involvement in the Jeju naval base construction.

Original post at: http://nobasestorieskorea.blogspot.com/2011/02/jeju-update-samsung-workers-samsung-and.html

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Korean electronics workers fight for their health

Dr. Jeong-ok Kong MD, MS has been a leading figure among Korean
occupational health professionals involved in numerous research projects
and campaigns with labor unions and grassroots organizations of workers.
These projects have ranged from work on musculoskeletal disorders, to job
stress-related physical and mental health problems, to chemical exposures.
Dr. Kong currently works as a fulltime activist with the Korean Institute of
Labor Safety and Health, (KILSH), whose activities center on workplace-
oriented action, and the development of worker expertise and leadership.
Dr. Kong is the recipient of the 2010 International Health & Safety Award
from the Occupational Health Section of the American Public Health
Dr. Kong’s talk will focus on the most recent struggle by cancer victims of
Samsung semiconductor plants.  This international campaign, coordinated
by SHARPS (Supporters of Health And Right of People in Semiconductor
Industry), aims to draw attention to and prevent cancer and other diseases
among young workers in Samsung plants in Korea.
Monday, November 15
UCSF School of Nursing, 5th Floor, Room N-517
Tuesday, November 16
12 noon
(arrive early to go through building security)
Oakland State Office Building
1515 Clay Street, Room 15 (Second Floor), Oakland, CA
5:30 pm
1919 Addison Street, Suite 204, Berkeley, CA
For more information, contact:
Garrett Brown, 510-558-1014, garrettdbrown@comcast.net
For information on events in the South Bay with Dr. Kong, contact:
Ted Smith, 408-242-6707, tsmith@igc.org
Sponsoring organizations include:
Hesperian • Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network • UC Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program
UC Center for Occupational and Environmental Health • UCSF Occupational and Environmental Medicine
UCSF Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing

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APHA OHS Section Awards Honor Winners and Remind Us of Ongoing Struggles

Category: Occupational Health & Safety
Posted on: August 31, 2010 11:08 AM, by The Pump Handle

by Elizabeth Grossman

The American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Occupational Health & Safety Section has announced the winners of its 2010 Occupational Health & Safety Awards. In a year that has been marked by what David Michaels, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, has described as “a series of workplace tragedies” – among them the deaths of 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine and 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico – noting both the honorees, and those in whose honor the awards are given, is a reminder of the enormous work, courage, and long history of efforts to ensure safety at work.

For their outstanding work to improve workers’ health and safety rights and working conditions both in the U.S. and internationally, the 2010 awards recognize five individuals:

  • Dr. Sherry Baron, coordinator for Occupational Health Disparities at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health;
  • Tom O’Connor, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) Network and principal coordinator of the Protecting Workers Alliance;
  • Stephen A. Mitchell, the current Health and Safety Representative for United Automobile Workers (UAW) Local Union 974, representing 5,500 workers at Caterpillar Inc. in the Peoria, IL area;
  • Wally Reardon, a communications tower climber who has dedicated himself to improving safety practices and standards in his fast-growing and dangerous industry; and
  • Dr. Jeong-ok Kong, an occupational health physician who has advocated on behalf of Korean auto and rail industry workers through the Korea Institute of Labor Safety and Health, (KILSH), and most recently for semiconductor industry cancer victims through the organization known as SHARPS (Supporters of Health And Rights of People in Semiconductor Industry).

Their work carries on that begun a century ago by Alice Hamilton, considered to be the founder of occupational health in the United States; by Lorin Kerr, who served for over forty years as a physician for the United Mine Workers and was instrumental in passage of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969; and by Tony Mazzocchi, who was one of the most influential labor leaders in the field of occupational health and safety, founder of the Labor Party, and instrumental in enactment of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970. It is in their honor that the APHA awards are given. The long history represented here is a reminder of the challenges and dedication involved in this work.

I was heartened to see Dr. Jeong-ok Kong’s name among the honorees, because I’ve become familiar with her work while writing about occupational and environmental health issues in the electronics industry. I first met her at a meeting in Manila in 2008 and the impact of her work has grown steadily since then.

Dr. Kong has faced particularly daunting challenges in her work, especially when advocating on behalf of young workers at Samsung’s Korean semiconductor plants who’ve been stricken with crippling and fatal diseases. According to Korean news media accounts, SHARPS, and other NGOs, there are more than 20 documented cases of Samsung workers who’ve been diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, and other cancers. At least nine have died of such diseases. Other Samsung workers at these plants are known to be suffering from skin disorders, neuropathy, fertility problems including miscarriages, and chronic nosebleeds.

Dr. Kong has been working to bring international attention to these cases and to win acknowledgement – and action – from Samsung. Workers and their representatives believe exposure to benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals as well as radiation in confined spaces over long hours may be causing these illnesses. Samsung has said it doesn’t use benzene, but is now undertaking an investigation.

Among the challenges Dr. Kong has faced are the Korean restrictions on public assembly, as evidenced this April when she and others holding a press conference were arrested following the funeral service to honor Park Ji-Yeon, a Samsung worker who died of leukemia on March 31, 2010 at age 23. Dr. Kong and seven others were arrested and held at a police station for two days.

In July, Samsung announced it had hired a consulting firm to conduct a year-long investigation of the cluster of leukemia cases at its factories outside of Seoul. According to the AP, as reported in The Boston Globe, Samsung says the investigators will work in consultation with experts from the Harvard University School of Public Health, and “be given complete access to Samsung’s semiconductor manufacturing facilities.” The study will look at both chemical and radiation exposures that might be linked to these and other diseases.

When I wrote to congratulate Dr. Kong on her APHA award she replied, “Thank you very much. I don’t think I deserve to get it. But I believe it would encourage my comrade of SHARPs and hope to be a chance to share and spread our struggle with many others.”

The OHS Section awards will be presented on November 9th at the APHA annual meeting in Denver. You can also read previous Pump Handle posts about the 2007, 2008, and 2009 awardees in our archives.

Elizabeth Grossman is the author of Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry, High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health, and other books. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Scientific American, Salon, The Washington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, Grist, and the Huffington Post. Chasing Molecules was chosen by Booklist as one of the Top 10 Science & Technology Books of 2009 and won a 2010 Gold Nautilus Award for investigative journalism.
Original post at: http://scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2010/08/apha_ohs_section_awards_honor.php

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A civic organization member in support of the human rights of workers in the semiconductor industry holds a signboard during a one-person demonstration mourning the death Park Ji-hyeon, a Samsung Electronics employee who passed away due to complications from leukemia, in front of the Samsung Headquarters in Seoul‘s Seocho neighborhood, April 2.

By Heo Jae-hyeon

A number of people have come forward and claimed that Samsung Electronics has offered large settlements to employees and their families in order to persuade them to drop industrial accident claims. Employees filed the claims after contracting diseases such as leukemia while working in the company’s semiconductor and liquid crystal display (LCD) plants. Surviving family members of employees who have already died from diseases, as well as employees currently suffering from disease and their family members, have claimed that Samsung has offered hundreds of millions of won in settlements in order to persuade them to drop their industrial accident claims and terminate contact with civic organizations.

Meeting with journalists on July 5, the mother of Park Ji-yeon, an employee who died on March 31 after contracting leukemia in 2007 while working at a Samsung Electronics semiconductor plant, said that she received a settlement of around 400 million Won ($333,605) from Samsung in early April and that she dropped her industrial accident lawsuit in mid-May. Park’s mother, identified by the surname Hwang, said, “Samsung instructed me not to meet with groups like the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and to move away so that members of civic organizations would be unable to contact me.”

According to accounts from her family members, Samsung Electronics secretly proposed the settlement to them just before Park passed away. Her case was in the middle of administrative litigation after the Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service (KComWel) ruled in 2009 that it would not recognize the case as an industrial accident.
“The settlement offered by Samsung Electronics was in the neighborhood of 400 million Won,” a family member said. “It included 380 million Won in pure settlement, including 50 million Won in insurance money, along with around 20 million Won in funeral expenses. As a condition for the settlement, Samsung asked that we give up the industrial accident suit and that we not have any contact with civic organizations.”

Park’s family faced a difficult choice. The costs of her two years and nine months of treatment alone was more than 100 million Won, and they were in debt by some 50 million Won. In the end, they decided to take the money offered by Samsung and drop the lawsuit. The money arrived in Hwang’s Nonghyup bank account on April 2, an hour before Park’s ashes were scattered in the waters off Sokcho. In her bankbook, the name of the sender was clearly printed out: “Samsung Electronics.”

Hwang felt belated remorse for taking the money from Samsung. After reaching the settlement amid a difficult situation, she canceled the lawsuit and cut off contact with the media, she said, but “after paying off all the debts incurred from her treatment, I felt empty inside, and I could not shake the feeling that I had let Ji-yeon down.”

“They gave us money in order to bury our child’s death away in the ground,” Hwang said. “If Samsung Electronics bears moral responsibility, it is only right for it to give consolation money, but why make us drop the industrial accident suit and prevent us from contacting civic organizations? They are using the weakness of poor people to buy them off with money in order to conceal the truth. We were used by Samsung.”

More accounts have surfaced to indicate that Samsung Electronics has persuaded not only Park’s family, but also other sick employees and family members of deceased employees to drop industrial accident claims. This fact was attested to in detail by the family members of Han Hye-kyeong, a 31-year-old Samsung Electronics LCD plant employee suffering from a brain tumor, and Yeon Jae-wook, a Samsung Electronics LCD plant employee who passed away in 2009 from a mediastinal tumor.

A Samsung Electronics official came to see Yeon’s family in mid-March, just after KComWel ruled that it would not recognize his illness as an industrial accident. His family was planning to continue the legal battle by requesting another KComWel judgment together with the civic organization Banollim. At that time, however, an official with Samsung Electronics’ Environment & Safety Group came by and offered to provide assistance with the industrial accident recognition process. The official also offered a settlement in the amount of 120 million Won. Yeon’s family turned the official down, however, and said they would request the judgment with Banollim. The visiting official said curtly, “If you work with Banollim, we cannot give you any money.”

Kim Si-nyeo, the 54-year-old mother of Han Hye-kyeong, received a similar offer in early June. She was called up with settlement offers by a Samsung Electronics higher-up and an ordinary employee whose names she does not recall. Kim currently endures very difficult living conditions, having moved not long ago from a 17 million Won deposit rental unit to a 5 million Won monthly rental unit in order to arrange the money for her daughter to receive treatment in her battle with a brain tumor. She also sold off the small restaurant she previously ran. Now she has no income. The settlement offer from Samsung was very tempting, but Kim turned it down.

“Samsung became a social problem, leaving my daughter exposed to that dangerous work environment, and its improper practice of trying to cover that up with money needs to be fixed,” she said.

Samsung Electronics has denied the recent flood of claims. A human resources team official who was in contact with Hwang refused an interview request from the Hankyoreh, calling it “burdensome.”

“It is true that we met with family members of people who were fighting disease or had passed away, but we merely discussed assistance with livelihood expenses, and we never told anyone to drop an industrial accident claim,” said the Samsung Electronics public relations office, who instead sent an e-mail response to the Hankyoreh. “We have recently, formulated criteria for assisting people in critical condition and are offering additional support.”

But the family members who met with Samsung officials tell a different story. Hwang said, “Samsung explicitly told me to drop the industrial accident suit, and I dropped it.”

“Samsung is lying,” she repeated.

“Samsung does not say outright that you cannot file an industrial accident claim,” said Yeon Mi-jeong, the younger sister of Yeon Jae-wook. “But what does it mean when they say they cannot give you consolation money if you file an industrial accident claim through a civic organization?”

Kim Ki-young, a former Samsung Electronics section chief who retired in early May after contracting Wegener’s granulomatosis, a rare disease, after working for around a decade as an engineer at the company, met on April 1 with a company official and a section chief identified by the surname Lee. Kim asked Lee, who was visiting him at his home in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, to cooperate in his industrial accident claim. The response, however, was not favorable.

According to a recording of the conversation between Kim and the Samsung official, the latter recommended that Kim resign and said, “A condition of receiving consolation money is that you not file any civil, criminal, or administrative lawsuit.” Kim responded by saying, “It is an unfair demand to say that we cannot hold the company responsible for the disease any more after receiving recognition of an industrial accident.”

Why does Samsung Electronics have its feelers up over the question of the recognition of industrial accident claims by employees? According to Banollim, the company is engaged in “petty ploys” to conceal its industrial accidents. Labor attorney Lee Jong-ran said, “When Samsung outwardly says that it has faith in its plants’ safety, while secretly persuading people to take settlements, that is an attempt to cover up an industrial disaster.”

Kim Eun-gi, head of the KCTU labor safety bureau, said that having Park Ji-yeon’s administrative suit dropped was part of a carefully plotted strategy by Samsung Electronics. According to Kim, Park’s case had the highest odds of victory among the six employees who had received industrial accident non-recognition judgments in May 2009.

“Samsung probably took into account the effect it would have on the industrial accident claims of the other workers if Ms. Park’s case was recognized as an industrial accident,” Kim said.

Original article at: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/ENGISSUE/74/430105.html

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By Kim Gyeong-lak

The Samsung Electronics semiconductor production line, which has been the subject of controversy due to a series of health complications including leukemia cases among its employees, will undergo a workplace environment investigation starting in mid-July. However, plans for participation by civic organizations like Banollim that have called on Samsung to take responsibility for the leukemia cases, as well as bereaved families of Samsung employees who died from the disease, failed to come to investigation.

Samsung Electronics announced plans Thursday to form an investigation team made up of some 20 industrial health researchers from South Korea and abroad and carry out a yearlong investigation of the semiconductor production line work environment beginning in mid-July. Samsung has been swept up in a firestorm of controversy over workplace environment hazards as some twenty employees who worked on the line over the past decade or so have developed leukemia or lymphoma. Ten of these employees subsequently died, according to Samsung Electronics.

The study is being led by Environ, an environmental health consultancy headquartered in Washington, D.C. Established in 1982, the company is considered an authority in chemical hazard assessment and environment hazard management, Samsung Electronics stated. Also participating in the study are researchers from U.S. public health graduate schools at Harvard University, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University, as well as researchers from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology.
Samsung Electronics said that it plans to examine the entire semiconductor manufacturing process to determine the presence of workplace environment hazards and carcinogenic materials, and to investigate the possibility of future illnesses.

“The study will also examine connections between the exposure to harmful materials on the production line and the duties of the people who became ill,” the company said.

Meanwhile, bereaved family members of deceased Samsung employees and groups such as Banollim that have made allegations about Samsung’s responsibility for the leukemia cases decided not to take part in the examination.

In April, Samsung Electronics said that if Banollim were to nominate a trustworthy organization, it would consider plans for including it on the investigation team.

Gong Yu Jeong-ok, an industrial medicine physician and Banollim member, said that she did receive a request for participation from a Sungkyunkwan University professor surnamed Kim, but she did not accept “because while Samsung was making requests for a joint investigation, at the same time it was doing what amounted to buying off the family members of the victims.”

The group leveled allegations earlier this month that Samsung Electronics has been persuading the family members of victims to drop their industrial accident lawsuits by offering them considerable sums of money.

See original article on The Hangyoreh website: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/430663.html

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By Gwak Jeong-soo

“Hyundai Motor is racing ahead at full speed with no brakes.”

“Samsung Electronics has had its greatest renewal in history.”

Not long ago, the press showered praise upon Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor as they announced their 1Q10 results. Since the second half of 2009, the two companies have been setting and breaking quarterly records. Perhaps thanks to their efforts, South Korea’s economic results have been enough to make the nation the honor student even among the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the organization for advanced nations.
At the same time, however, some concerned observers have begun to ask whether this praise is truly warranted. According to these observers, we should not let ourselves be dazzled by the outwardly impressive numbers, but instead turn our attention to the suffering of the many small and mid-sized companies hidden in the shade of these major corporations.

“Major corporations have been producing their greatest results ever, registering double-digit profit margins since the second half of 2009, but the small and mid-sized subcontractors doing business with them are unable to achieve profit margins of even 1 to 2 percent,” said a Mr. Lee, the president of an electronics and automobile parts producer in Incheon.

In order to uncover the real face of the polarization between large and small companies, the Hankyoreh 21 placed under the microscope South Korea’s leading companies, Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor, and the subcontractors that are doing business with them. The weekly magazine compared first quarter results for 2007, just before the global economic crisis struck, 2009, when the recovery began and 2010, when the growth trend continued to accelerate.

The subcontractors examined were the 755 of the roughly 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) doing business with Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor for which objective financial information could be verified. Of these 755, a total of 498 were doing business with Samsung Electronics and 257 with Hyundai Motor. The magazine’s efforts to confirm company financial information were assisted by the Korea Information Service, a corporate information database.

The analysis showed that polarization between the large companies and the subcontractors was far greater than expected. While the contracting companies were boasting of double-digit profit margins in 2010, many parts companies were languishing at one-quarter the returns of the major company on average and had yet to return to pre-crisis levels. Naturally, the gap between the contracting and subcontracting company had grown wider than its status before the crisis struck.

In the case of the operating profit margin, a company profitability indicator calculated by dividing operating profits by sales, Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor respectively recorded profit margins of 8.23 percent and 7.01 percent for 2009. For Samsung Electronics subcontractors, however, the profit margin was 5.66 percent on average, and for Hyundai Motor subcontractors it was just 2.48 percent. The gap widened further in the first quarter of 2010. Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor leapt up to 14.56 percent and 8.35 percent, respectively, but Samsung Electronics subcontractors actually dropped from 2009 to 4.87 percent. Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor subcontractors recorded 4.62 percent, a higher value than in 2009 but still half that of the contracting company. The differential between contracting company and parts company for 1Q10 was 9.79 percentage points for Samsung Electronics and 3.73 percentage points for Hyundai Motor, far greater than the respective tallies of 2.9 percentage points and 3.01 percentage points in 2007.

The situation is the same with the net profit margin, another profitability indicator calculated by dividing net profits by revenue. Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor recorded net profit margins of 6.92 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively, for 2009. In contrast, Samsung Electronics subcontractors recorded 3.12 percent, and Hyundai Motor subcontractors just 2.73 percent. For 1Q10, both Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor rose into the double-digit range, with net profit margins of 12.78 percent and 11.39 percent respectively. Their subcontractors, however, actually dropped in net profit margin, as Hyundai subcontractors came in at 0.16 percent and Samsung subcontractors at 3 percent.

In 2007, the gap between contracting and subcontracting companies was 6.82 percentage points for Samsung Electronics and 2.49 percentage points for Hyundai Motor, but in January of 2010 it had risen to 9.78 percentage points and 11.23 percentage points, respectively. The profit margin and net profit levels for subcontractors at the time totaled just 3 to 6.5 percent of their pre-crisis totals.

Also demonstrating the severity of the polarization is the revenue growth rate, an indicator of company growth that represents the ratio of current year revenue growth to revenue for the previous year. For Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor, those values were 23.06 percent and -1.03 percent for 2009, but their rise in 1Q10 was explosive, with Samsung Electronics registering 33.45 percent and Hyundai Motor 39.56 percent. Meanwhile, parts companies fell far short of their contracting company, with Samsung’s recording revenue growth of 5.24 percent, and Hyundai’s down to -4.58 percent.

The polarization between larger and smaller companies evident in sales and profit statistics. Hyundai Motor sales rose by 1.57 trillion Won ($1.3 billion) in 2008, but sales by subcontractors rose just 44.6 billion Won. In 2009, Hyundai Motor sales dropped by 330 billion Won, but its parts suppliers’ sales plummeted by 936.4 billion Won. When subcontractors enjoyed increases, it was a fraction of those seen by the contracting company, and when their profits dropped, the fall was several times that of the contracting company.

A comparison between the operating profits of Samsung Electronics and its subcontractors also reveals noteworthy results. Samsung Electronics operating profits underwent a rapid drop in 2008, the year the crisis struck, falling by 1.8 trillion Won. In contrast, its subcontractors enjoyed an increase of 203.8 billion Won. In 2009, when the recovery began, the situation made a 180-degree turn, with Samsung Electronics’ operating profits leaping up by 3.25 trillion Won and subcontractor profits falling by 154.1 billion Won. The situation has been a feast for the large company and a funeral for the subcontractors.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

(This is one of two articles in a series.)

See original article at: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_business/429935.html

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By Gwak Jeong-soo

South Korea’s favorable economic ratings despite the difficulties experienced by small and medium-sized companies are due to the relative importance of major corporations like Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor. The two companies posted exports last year totaling 74.8 trillion Won ($62.5 billion) and 15.8 trillion Won, respectively. Together, they accounted for 19.2 percent of South Korea’s total exports of 460.9 trillion Won. The two companies’ sales of 121.7 trillion Won also accounted for 11.45 of South Korea’s GDP. The optical illusion caused by the deepening of the economic concentration of large corporations is hiding the seriousness of the polarization between large and small and medium-sized businesses.

There are conflicting answers from large and small to medium-sized businesses as to the reason behind the polarization. Subcontractors claim that the main reason is that major companies do not guarantee optimum returns to them.

“Major factors for subpar returns include not only unreasonably lower delivery unit costs, but also the serious issue that the prices do not properly reflect factors such as the rise in the international prices of raw materials,” said a Mr. Lee, the president of a car parts manufacturer in Incheon.
Others say major corporations do not keep pledges made with the government.

“When we meet with the president at Cheong Wa Dae, the chairmen of major corporations promise to show consideration for small and medium-sized businesses, but the reality is completely different,” said the president of another industrial company. “Primary subcontractors directly dealing with major corporations make about 1 to 2 percent profit, but secondary and tertiary suppliers are running virtually in the red.”

Samsung, however, has a contrasting view of the situation.

“Since the global market price of each part is transparent and open, the reality is that we cannot show preferential treatment to domestic parts producers,” said Ha Joo-ho, a member of Samsung Electronics’ public relations team. “If we buy domestic parts at a higher cost, it will cause arguments over fairness. Samsung, as a global leader, offers its products at prices higher than competing firms, so it has the wherewithal to be a bit more generous with its unit prices for delivered parts.”

Yeon Tae-gyeong of Hyundai Motor’s public relations team found the cause in the business environment, noting that carmakers did so well last year because of good exports and internal demand due to rise in the exchange rate and tax support.

“Out of consideration of the environment, Hyundai recently decided as a group to sign production and fair trade agreements with about 2,700 small and medium-sized businesses, including primary, secondary and tertiary subcontractors and boosted plans to support them,” said Yeon.

The trend in the unit price of delivered goods since the economic crisis lends strength to the claims of small and medium-sized businesses. Since the first half of 2008, the international price of raw materials has skyrocketed, but firms producing finished goods have ignored demands by subcontractors to raise unit prices. When parts producers have strongly protested, threatening to suspend production, the major firms accept only half of the demanded price hike.

As the economic crisis took full root in the second half of the year, however, measures were taken to lower the unit price of parts, canceling out most of the rise of the first half of the year. They have had to bite the bullet at the coercive attitude of auto corporations, who tell subcontractors to quit delivering goods if they do not like the price offered.

“In 2009, carmakers did not lower their parts prices, at least nominally, and the rise in personnel and electricity costs were also not reflected in parts prices,” said Heo Man-yeong of the Korea Foundry Cooperative Association. “Carmakers have said that they will reflect the rising international price of raw materials in their parts quotes, but they calculate the unit price based on major parts producers who procure their goods at relatively low prices, so small to medium-sized businesses have no choice but to incur losses.”

The government has announced a plan to cultivate some 300 rising small and medium-sized companies as “hidden champions” by 2020 to boost employment, but there has been criticism that in the current reality, this is like seeking a fish from a tree.

Yunhan University President Kim Young-ho said small and medium-sized businesses account for 99 percent of all companies and 88 percent of total employment, but make just 2 percent of profits in subcontractor deals with major companies. If this continues, most will die within in three to four years.

Small and medium-sized businesses agree that the rise in raw material prices must be properly reflected in the delivery costs per unit. They also say it is urgent to change the system in which major companies monopolize profits.

Kim Seong-su, president of electronics partsmaker Seoo Telecom, said “Side-by-side development of major and small to medium-sized businesses is urgent for national development, but the current structure is one in which major corporations are monopolizing returns and small to medium-sized companies are virtually working as farmhands.”

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

(This is the second of two articles.)

See original link at: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_business/429936.html

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This article published on a US tech blog reported about the leukemia cases found in Samsung in Korea. Many of the comments (while they quickly degenerated into insults) asked questions about the validity of the data, and about the danger or not, of working in an electronics factory. Much of the data to answer these doubts and questions are already available in Korea. In the future translation into English of that data will be made available on this blog.

22 workers have contracted disease

Samsung Electronics and may other makers of memory and microchips around the world sometimes use chemicals and other materials in the construction of their products that are toxic and could be lethal to humans if exposed in large doses. Samsung has been battling allegations that some workers in its plants in China have contracted cancer from exposure into the work place.

Samsung has been under pressure by activist groups to take responsibility for the incidents of workers contracting leukemia or lymphoma. So far, 22 workers from the chip plants Samsung operates have been diagnosed with lymphoma or leukemia between 1998 and 2010. Ten of these workers have died because of the diseases so far. Samsung has long maintained that the chemicals it uses in the production of chips at the plants have not caused the cancers in workers.


Source: http://www.dailytech.com/Samsung+Factories+Allegedly+Linked+to+Leukemia+in+Workers/article18137.htm

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Unionists and activists from Communication Workers of America, the Santa Clara Central Labor Council, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, and the San Jose Peace and Justice Center leafletted outside the Samsung factory in San Jose on May 25 – workers were receptive and interested and some even knew already about what was happening in Korea.

An impressive display of solidarity linking the US and Asia!

Samsung cannot hide forever from victims demanding justice.

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A copy of the handbook was obtained by the Hangyoreh 21

The controversy over reported workplace hazard at a Samsung Electronics semiconductors plant that may have led employees to contract leukemia has been rising following the disclosure of an internal “environmental handbook” showing the use of six types of carcinogenic materials and more than 40 types of dangerous irritants.

For Issue No. 811 to be released Monday, the magazine Hankyoreh 21 obtained a copy of the notebook, which was provided to engineers in charge of process management at the Samsung semiconductor factory in Giheung. Some 50 types of chemicals and gases appearing on the list of “Factors Influencing the Environment for the Different Processes” were analyzed for harmfulness by a team of experts, including Seoul National University Graduate School of Public Health Professor Yoon Chung-sik and Catholic University of Daegu Industrial Health Professor Choi Sang-joon. The notebook in question was classified as top secret, and distribution outside the company was prohibited.

According to the analysis, a total of six carcinogenic materials were used in the semiconductor plant, namely trichloroethylene, thinner, sensitizing solution, dimethylacetamide, arsine (AsH3) and sulfuric acid (H2SO4).

Trichloroethylene, which was used in the washing and etching process, can cause diseases such as leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal cancer and breast cancer. Choi said, “Trichloroethylene is a substance that Samsung currently claims not to use.” Dimethylacetamide, also used in the washing and etching process, is carcinogenic and causes sterility, spontaneous abortion and respiratory organ impairment. Hwang Yu-mi, who passed away from acute leukemia in March 2007 at the age of 23 after working in the third line at the Giheung plant, was tasked with washing work.
Sensitizing solution, which is used in the ‘photography’ process, contains dichromates and benzene, both carcinogens. Dichromates cause an allergic reaction when they come in contact with the skin and lead to asthma and breathing difficulties. Benzene is a major carcinogen that causes diseases such as leukemia. When inhaled, it leads to drowsiness and dizziness.

The environmental handbook also confirmed use of some 40 types of irritants such as hydroquinone and methane that can cause menstrual irregularity, sterility, insomnia and dementia.

To date, forty-seven people have requested assistance from semiconductor worker’s health and human rights watchdog Banollim, claiming to have contracted cancer or rare ailments after working at the Samsung semiconductor and LCD plants.

Industrial medicine specialist Gong-Yu Jeong-ok said, “We have seen previously healthy young people with no family history of disease contracting cancer, and if it has been confirmed that the factory where they worked uses all of these different kinds of carcinogenic materials, there is a strong chance these are occupational diseases.”

While acknowledging the existence of the handbook, Samsung denied any possibility that its workers were exposed to harmful chemicals. A public relations official for Samsung Electronics said the environmental notebook was provided to those who completed certification training for handling chemicals and explained, “There are double and triple safety measures in place at the semiconductor plant to prevent any leakage of chemicals, so workers are not being exposed to them.”

But an individual identified by the surname Kim who quit a job as an engineer at the Giheung plant said, “Because employees are forced to compete for productivity, there was no choice but to disable the interlock safety device, which is unnecessary and slows down the work rate.” Kim added, “They disabled dozens of interlocks on average each day, exempting only those absolutely fatal to safety.”

Another engineer who worked for more than a decade at the Giheung plant said, “When I was working there, there were quite a number of organic solvent and gas leak incidents.”

Original article in Hangyoreh: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/421106.html

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