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Samsung Display, the site of frequent workplace accidents, has remodeled dormitories to prevent employee suicide.   Source: Chosun Biz capture

Samsung Display Co., Ltd. has remodeled dormitories in a move to prevent about 23,300 workers from choosing their workplace to end their own lives, Chosun Biz said in an exclusive report on Oct. 23.

Cosmetic Fix

The world’s largest OLED maker has replaced closets, hangers, doorknobs, windows, garment bars, and other amenities in the dormitories at its Tangjeong plant in Asan, according to the conservative business news site, to prevent them from being used during suicide attempts.

Suicide, Collapse And Fire

The remodeling was prompted by an engineer, in his thirties, who committed suicide in April 2017 by hanging himself on a garment bar in his dormitory room.  The engineer, whose identity was withheld, was overwhelmed by overwork, according to the police.

“We have changed facilities in places where there will likely be an accident,” Chosun Biz quoted a Samsung Display spokesperson as saying.  “We have made the improvements to prevent unfortunate accidents and explained it to our employees.”

Earlier, in Jan. 2017, a 43-year-old employee plunged to death from a building in Tangjeong, leaving a note in which he said, “I am stressed out by work.”

In April 2016, the local labor regulator suspended the operation of the Tangjeong plant after a worker fell to his death while on the job.  On May 3, three days after the lifting of the order, two workers were critically injured as they were felled by collapsing stockpiles of displays.

On May 8, 2017, a cooling tower caught fire after overheating.

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In May 2017, a cooling tower was caught fire at Samsung Display.  Source: YTN capture 

Leukemia, Multiple Sclerosis And Brain Tumors

Samsung Display was the display unit of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., where a number of employees contracted leukemia, multiple sclerosis and brain tumors.  Spun off in April 2012, the company is still majority held by Samsung Electronics.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

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Yi

Yi Hye-jeong, 41 years old, is the 118th victim of Samsung’s occupational-disease cluster. 

Another former Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. has died, raising the death toll of the tech company’s occupational-disease cluster to 118.

Yi Hye-jeong, a 41-year-old former Samsung employee, died on Oct. 4, on Chuseok, South Korea’s equivalent to Thanksgiving, about four years  after her diagnosis with systemic sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder that first stiffens the skin and then the internal organs.

118 Tragedies

Yi’s life and death conforms to the pattern set by the 117 Samsung victims who, ahead of her, have fallen victims to a variety of occupationally caused diseases.

In 1995, fresh out of high school, she began working at Samsung’s plant in the city of Giheung.  Over the next three years, she cleaned wafers, then placed them in high-temperature burners.  She was offered little protective gear or safety education, even though her job is known to involve such toxic chemicals as nitrous oxide, arsenic, phosphine, oxypoclimin, benzene, and xylene.

Soon, Yi began to suffer from headaches and chronic vomiting.  In 2013, she was diagnosed with systemic sclerosis.  Her hands began to swell, then turned necrotic.

Too Late Too Little

What makes Yi’s death more tragic is this: it came at a time when SHARPS is reaching new momentum in their ten-year campaign.  On Aug. 30, South Korea’s supreme court ruled that a former Samsung worker’s multiple sclerosis was occupationally caused without seeking proof of work-relatedness from the victim.

The ruling was truly a milestone.  South Korea’s workers comp agency and court had previously shifted the burden of such proof to the financially and physically devastated victims while it allowed the world’s largest tech firm, on a pretext of business confidentiality, to reject requests for the disclosure of chemicals used in chip production.  Yi was among tens of Samsung victims who had exhausted their legal recourse after failures to prove the work relatedness of their diseases.

Yi is survived by her husband and three children.

As of Sept. 2017, SHARPS has profiled 320 Samsung victims.  Yi’s death is the 118th at the entire conglomerate and the 80th at its chip/LCD unit.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

 

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Park Sang-hoon regularly receives expensive gifts from Samsung although he represents five victims of the company’s occupational disease cluster.  Source:  Hwawoo.org

Media Expose:  Samsung, In Effect, Bribes Cluster Victims’ Lawyer

A lawyer who represents victims of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s blood-disorder cluster has been being showered with expensive gifts by a senior executive of the company’s parent.

Chang Choong-ki, former president of Samsung Group’s Future Strategy Office (FSO), regularly gifted expensive concert tickets, worth $250-$300 apiece, to Park Sang-hoon, a lawyer representing five Samsung cluster victims seeking workers compensation, multiple media outlets reported on Aug. 8, citing text messages between Chang and Park.

Nerve Center

Responsible for inter-affiliate coordination, the FSO is the nerve center of the mega-conglomerate’s flagship Samsung Electronics and 60-plus other affiliates.  Unaccountable to disclosure regulations, the office’s operations are shrouded in secrecy.  However, the widely known fact in South Korea is that it runs a vast network of gift–giving and bribery that is deeply seated in politics, bureaucracy, the judiciary, and the press.

Since Feb. 2017, Chang, 63 years old, and Samsung executives were indicted for bribery charges implicating Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-yong and Park Geun-hye (not related to Park, the lawyer), the president who was impeached in Dec. 2016.

The latest revelations showed Samsung’s tentacles have reached the legal counsel of its occupational disease victims.

Switching Sides for Cultured Life?

Attorney Park, 55 years old, is a former judge and a partner with one of the country’s largest law firms, Yoon & Yang LLC.

When Park began to receive gifts from Samsung’s Chang has yet to be determined. However, in a text message to him in July 2016, Park said, “Thanks to Seoul Arts Center tickets you keep sending me, President Chang, I am living a cultured life richly.”

In 2011, on a pro bono basis, he played a role in winning a court decision that ruled that the diseases of two Samsung victims were occupationally caused.  It was the first-of-its kind courtroom win for SHARPS although three other victims’ cases were rejected.

However, Park seems to have switched sides by the time KCOMWEL, aided by Samsung, appealed the decision.

On June 26, 2014, in the appeals court, Park abruptly asked the judge to postpone the ruling on Hwang Yu-mi, the first publicly known victim of the Samsung cluster, because Samsung, the defendant, had begun negotiations with other victims, said Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’s legal counsel, in a Facebook post.   After protests by other lawyers and Hwang’s father, Hwang Sang-ki, Park rescinded the request, Lim added.

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Chang Choong-ki’s  FSO is allegedly behind Samsung’s vast network of bribery.  Source: YouTube.

Split

In Oct. 2015, Park helped some families members of Samsung victims splinter from SHARPS and form a separate group called the Family Settlement Committee.  After the split, Samsung walked out of the arbitration process, for which SHARPS had fought for years, and initiated a limited compensation scheme.

All these moves prompted SHARPS to begin a sit-in at Samsung’s corporate headquarters in Oct. 2015.  The sit-in is still ongoing.

Ombudsman

Park is also senior advisor for the Ombudsman Committee, an external monitoring structure for Samsung’s worker safety practice, which the company, the family committee, and SHARPS agreed to launch in 2016.

His job was to advise on the independence and neutrality of the committee, but Park appears to have clandestinely worked on behalf of Samsung’s interests.

In a text message to Chang, he said, “Thanks to your care and interest, the Ombudsman Committee will be put on a normal path.”  He went on with his lawyerly saying: “Three years of the committee’s activity will yield appropriate accomplishments.”

“I will play my own role as senior advisor,” he concluded.

Turncoat with Self-Confidence

By 2017, Park has become something of Samsung’s unofficial mouthpiece.  In March, he rather abruptly agreed to an exclusive interview with the conservative Dong A Ilbo.  It was when the issue of Samsung’s occupational disease cluster came into public focus again after the arrest of Lee Jae-yong.

“Taking issue with the collusive nexus of politics and business is a good thing,” Park said in the interview.  “However, that issue must not be tied to Samsung’s leukemia [cluster].”

“That will be like tangling what’s already untangled,” he warned, saying. “It will be an insult to me and others who worked hard to solve the issue [of Samsung’s cluster].”

Last week, Park was tapped to represent the MBC, the country’s TV network,  in a lawsuit seeking an injunction banning a tell-all documentary on how the network’s management harassed and fired its own journalists for calling for editorial independence against government meddling.

Park resigned from the family committee as legal counsel and from the Ombudsman Committee as senior advisor, after the text messages surfaced.

SHARPS said it would file criminal complaints against Park and Chang.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

 

 

 

 

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Samsung victims and SHARPS activists were attacked and verbally abused by tens of far-right thugs as they submitted a petition to the court calling for a punishment to fit the crimes of Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co, Ltd.

On Aug. 7, the special prosecutors demanded 12 years in jail for Lee.  The heir apparent of the world’s largest technology company was arrested in Feb. 2016, on five accounts of bribery and influence-peddling.  The charges center on about $37 million in bribes and gifts he paid Choi Soon-sil, the shamanic confidante of President Park Geun-hye who was impeached early this year.

Bribes

The charges largely stem from the National Pension Service’s vote in favor of a controversial merger in 2015 between two Samsung affiliates that cemented Lee’s control of Samsung Electronics.  The merger cost the public’s retirement fund KRW 346.8 billion ($302 million), even according to the NPS’s own estimates. 

The Trial of The Century

The courtroom of Lee’s trial, dubbed the “trial of the century” by Korean media, is often filled by Samsung employees and hard-core supporters of Park, making it hard for SHARPS and Samsung victims to get their seats.

Attack

On Aug. 7, it was these far-rightists that attacked Han Hye-kyung, a 39-year-old wheelchair-bound victim of the Samsung blood-disorder cluster, and her mother, Kim Si-nyeo, 60 years old, as they submitted the petition signed by 2,729 people demanding the punishment to the fullest extent of the law for Lee.

The rightwing bigots threw expletives at the two women, pushing and slapping SHARPS supporters.  They derided Han’s handicapped condition, to the point that she covered her ears and burst into tears.  Her mother, Han, slumped against a wall, wailing.

The rightwing mob also attempted to attack special prosecutor Park Young-soo.  They threw water bottles at Park who managed to enter into the court, escorted by phalanxes of police officers.

This is not the first time pro-Park thugs attacked Samsung victims and SHARPS advocates.  In January 2017, tens of members of Mommies’ Troop, the far-right group of middle-aged females allegedly bankrolled by the Federation of Korean Industries, attempted to raid SHARPS’s sit-in.  They ripped SHARPS’s banners and posters, yelling, “Let’s defend Lee Jae-yong.”  Police were brought to the scene.  Two thugs were criminally charged later.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

 

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SHARPS has scored yet another legal win as a higher court in Seoul has upheld a lower-court declaration that a former Samsung employee’s disease was occupationally caused.

On July 25, 2017, the higher court threw out an appeal by the KCOMWEL and upheld a lower-court order for the agency to pay workers comp benefits to Kim Mi-seon, a 37 year-old, former LCD assembler of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. who has fallen victim to multiple sclerosis

Two Firsts

Kim’s long fight for workers comp had two firsts. She was the first multiple sclerosis victim to win an administrative court ruling in favor of her case for workers comp.  In Feb. 2017, the administrative court ruled that her condition was due to a combination of overwork and chemical exposure at Samsung’s LCD unit, which was spun off into a separate entity in 2012.  It was the first appeals victory for electronics workers suffering multiple sclerosis, the disease so rare that it affects only 3.5 in every 100,000 Koreans.

No Precedent

In July 2015, Samsung actually used the rarity of the disease and the lack of a judicial or administrative precedent to justify the lowest payout for multiple sclerosis under an already-problematic and divisive compensation scheme for the victims of its occupational disease cluster.  Also, citing the lack of medically proven data or a legal precedent, the scheme does not cover lung cancer and infertility.

Tragic Repeats

While her victory can be a gamechanger in ongoing legal proceedings and campaigns against Samsung, the 37 years old’s post-Samsung life was a repeat of many tragedies wrought upon Samsung cluster victims.

Kim was only 17 in June 1997 when she landed a job at Samsung LCD as an operator.  After three years of soldering tabs onto LCD modules and panels, in March 2000, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  In June 2000, she resigned as her condition deteriorated.

Over the 17 years since her departure from Samsung, sclerosis steadily sank her physically and financially.  She is now legally blind in dire financial need that at least once led to SHARPS making an urgent appeal for financial donations for her.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

 

 

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Lee Eun-joo’s mentally handicapped mother holds the portrait of her daughter at the funeral.  Lee was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2000, after six years of working at a Samsung chip lab.  She died in 2012.  Lee’s father became incapacitated from work due to an injury he sustained in a workplace accident when she was a young girl.   

Seoul’s higher court that has upheld a lower court ruling in favor of posthumous workers compensation payouts for a Samsung employee built its case upon Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s own data, SHARPS has learned.

Occupationally Caused Cancer

On July 7, 2017, the court ruled in favor of workers comp benefits for the bereft family of Lee Eun-joo, the former Samsung employee who died of ovarian cancer in 2012, confirming the lower court ruling that her cancer was occupationally caused.  Lee was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, after six years of gluing together silicon wafers with formaldehyde lead at a Samsung lab where she had worked since the age of seventeen.

Subpoena

The lower-court decision was crucial because it concluded that the KOSHA’s epidemiological survey was insufficiently comprehensive.  The probe turned up a variety of carcinogens and other hazards but failed to link any of them conclusively to Lee’s cancer.

The higher court went further in seeking from Samsung  the data it collected as part of its own compensation scheme.  “Samsung had to comply with the court’s request,” said Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’s in-house legal counsel.

“They knew they would be otherwise subpoenaed,” Lim added, pointing to another lawsuit. In Dec. 2016, after several rejections of its request by Samsung, the court finally issued a subpoena to the company for the data it was presumed to have collected on occupational diseases.

Ten in 165

Samsung’s own data rounded out the horrific picture of its occupational disease cluster.  As of Dec. 2016, ten out of a total of its 165 payout seekers were victims of ovarian cancer, according to court documents.  The ratio is twice as high as SHARPS’s own data, which include only seven victims of ovarian cancer out of a total of 230 former Samsung employees it has profiled.

National Statistics 

The court established the work-relatedness of Lee’s cancer by citing national statistics of ovarian cancer.  “The standardization incidence rate of ovarian cancer is 5.7 in every 100,000,” said the court.  “The same rate for women in their 20s is about 2.5 in every 100,000.”

Burden of Proof

The higher court also reaffirmed the low court’s position:  work-relatedness should be more broadly established in ways not disadvantageous to claimants when it is difficult to clearly determine the cause of ovarian cancer and other rare diseases.  “It can be inferred that work-relatedness can be established when medically or historically proven causes or factors of the disease are proven to exist in the claimant’s working environment,” the court said.

Finally, the court pointed to the unfairness of the imposition of the burden of proof upon workers in their claims for workers compensation.  “In the light of the purpose of workers compensation,” the court said.  “It is against equity and conscience to put the burden of proof on workers who are poorly positioned [in society].”

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

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SHARPS’s sit-in canopy in torrential rain, July 7, 2017.

 

 

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Yieunjufather

An anguished Lee Hae-cheol broke in tears in April 2013 when he filed for workers compensation posthumously for her deceased daughter, Lee Eun-joo.  She died of ovarian cancer in 2012, after six years of working at a Samsung chip lab.  The father is also a victim of a workplace accident.  On July 7, 2017, Seoul’s higher court upheld a lower-court ruling in favor of Lee’s claim.

SHARPS has scored two legal wins in a single day, achieving new momentum in its ongoing effort to hold Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd accountable for the occupational disease cluster.

Samsung LCD and Leukemia

On July 7, the KCOMWEL approved a workers compensation claim filed by a former Samsung worker, confirming that she fell victim to chronic myelogenous leukemia as a result of working at Samsung’s LCD lab.

This is the first such acknowledgement by the workers compensation agency for a worker employed in LCD production.

The 33-year-old claimant, identified only by her last name Kim at her request, began to do color filter processing as an apprentice at the LCD plant in 2002 when she was only eighteen years old.  Color filter processing involves benzene, formaldehyde, ionizing radiation, electromagnetic fields, and similar hazards.  Kim said she was exposed to these hazards with little protective gear.

By 2008, after the five years and seven months of chemical exposure and frequent night shifts, she succumbed to chronic fatigue, irregular periods, and infertility, which led to her resigning from the job.  Two years later, in 2010, she was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia.  Kim was only twenty-four years old.

Onetime and Skewed

In Oct. 2014, she filed a claim for workers compensation.  In response, in 2015-2017, the KOSHA conducted an epidemiological probe of her workplace, which it said only turned up immaterial work-relatedness.

The probe was skewed in Samsung’s favor as the KOSHA complied with the company’s request and did not allow Kim’s or her legal counsel’s presence during the probe.   This meant Samsung only showed the KOSHA investigators what it wanted to show.

On June 23, 2017, a seven-member evaluation committee reversed its earlier decision and decided in favor of Kim’s claim by a 5-2 margin.  “Although it showed low work-relatedness,” said the committee, “this onetime epidemiological survey is insufficient to determine the routine and continual exposure [of hazardous materials] sustained by the claimant.”

On July 7, 2017, the KCOMWEL officially informed Kim of the decision.

Higher Win

On the same day, Seoul’s higher court upheld a lower court decision in favor of posthumous workers comp benefits for Lee Eun-joo.  Lee died of ovarian cancer in 2012, more than ten years after her first diagnosis.  She was diagnosed with the cancer in 2000, after six years of gluing together silicon wafers with formaldehyde lead at a Samsung lab where she began to work at the age of seventeen.

The lower-court ruling was the first of its kind as it tied the work-relatedness of Lee’s cancer to working conditions at Samsung’s chip lines.

SHARPS’s Sit-in Continues

Since Oct. 7, 2015, SHARPS and its supporters have been staging a sit-in at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in south Seoul, calling for the world’s largest technology company to:  1) compensate all victims of occupational disease transparently and sufficiently; and 2) make a sincere and full apology.

 

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