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On Nov. 23, 2018 SHARPS finally extracted from Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. a meaningful apology for the deaths and illnesses caused by its unsafe working condition and an initiative to compensate the victims and improve workers safety.

It was likely the beginning of an end to an era, at least in South Korea, in which a corporate behemoth freely harmed chemically drenched young workers while churning out state-of-the-art electronic components.

And It was a first of its kind moment in the country’s labor history:  a historically unrepentant Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. finally caved in to a tenacious and agile campaign initiated by an average middle-aged taxi driver who went everywhere to find anyone who would listen to how he lost his otherwise healthy 21-year-old daughter to occupationally caused leukemia at the world’s largest chip lab.


“Our dear co-workers and their families have suffered for a long time,” said Kim Ki-nam, Samsung’s representative director responsible for device components, as requested by an earlier arbitration decision, “but Samsung Electronics did not wholeheartedly take care of them sooner.”

“In the past, Samsung Electronics did not sufficiently and completely manage the risk associated with health hazards at chip and LCD plants,” Mr. Kim said as he matter-of-factly read the apology in a press conference joined by victims and their families, many sobbing, and labor-department officials, as well as lawmakers who assisted Kim Ji-young, a former supreme-court justice, in steering the arbitration process.

After reading the apology, Mr. Kim took a deep bow and stepped off the podium to shake hands with SHARPS founder Hwang Sang-ki and other victims, one in a wheelchair and one with a white cane.  Mr. Hwang, the taxi driver, campaigned hard to shed light on his daughter Yumi’s occupationally caused death at Samsung.


On Nov. 20, 2007 when Mr. Hwang and tens of activists formed SHARPS, only five news outlets reported it. Among the five, only two were national newspapers.  Every year, Samsung pastes the front pages of the New Year issues of all national newspapers with its ad.


Samsung’s 929-word apology did not exceed the arbitration decision even by a word.  It fell short of directly admitting that its working condition was the direct cause of mass illnesses and deaths.

“The apology made by Samsung’s representative director today, to be honest, is not sufficient to the victims and their families,” said Mr. Hwang in response to Mr. Kim’s remarks.  “Indeed, no apology will be sufficient, given countless deceptions and insults wrought upon SHARPS [by Samsung] and the agonies of occupational diseases and the pain in the loss of their beloved next-of kin.”

“However, I will take the apology today as Samsung’s resolution,” said Hwang as he read his hand-written three-page response.  “I am glad I can made good on the promise I made to my daughter Yumi.”  He went on saying: “However, I cannot forget the agonies my family and Yumi had to suffered from.  So many people share in the same pain.”


As requested by the arbitration decision, Samsung has retained Jipyung, a Seoul-based law firm, to manage its new compensation program, said Mr. Kim.  Under the new program, the company will distribute up to KRW 150 million (U$132,667 at U$1: KRW 1,130) for the illnesses and deaths of former and current workers or contractors who grew ill after working for a full year at the company’s chip or LCD plants.

The program has expanded to include pulmonary conditions and birth defects, compared with the one Samsung launched in 2015 in a move to pit victims against one another over compensation.  Its stratagem backfired, as it prompted SHARPS to stage a sit-in at Samsung’s headquarters.

The increasingly high-profile protest lasted 1,023 days and became a global rallying point against Samsung’s corporate malfeasance.

Pointing to the fact that the program is limited to LCD and chip units, Mr. Hwang said: “Occupational-disease victims are not limited to Samsung’s LCD or chip unit….  I hope Samsung will launch a more comprehensive scheme for all victims [at home and abroad].”

Sweat and Toil

Separately, Samsung entrusted the Korean Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA), to manage KRW 50 billion ($$44.1 million) in funds it paid out to improve workers safety in the electronics industry.

“It is praiseworthy because it is not an easy decision for Samsung,” Mr. Hwang said, commenting on the fund.  “However, we must remember that the fund is made of the sweat and toil of workers.”


During the first three years of SHARPS in 2007-10, the police often harassed and arrested SHARPS activists. In March 2010, the police filmed all attendees of a funeral service for Park Jie-yeon, a Samsung employee who died of leukemia.


As of June 2018, since its formation in Nov. 2007, SHARPS has profiled 320 victims of Samsung’s cluster.  Of them, 118 have died.  The advocacy group has, via petition or lawsuit, successfully helped 28 victims to get workers compensation.

Spurred by the arbitration decision, Han Hye-kyung, a wheelchair-bound victim of occupationally caused brain tumors and a leading member of SHARPS, is seeking retrial of her workers compensation case.

In 2014, the appeals court has turned down Ms. Han’s petition by shifting the burden of proof for the work-relatedness of her brain tumors from Samsung to her.  The ruling seemed to exhaust her legal recourse until Feb. 2017 when in a landmark ruling the same appeals court ruled that a Samsung LCD worker’s multiple sclerosis was caused by her on-the-job chemical exposure without seeking proof of work-relatedness from the plaintiff.


Anti-riot cops arrested seven SHARPS activists who attempted to march toward Samsung’s corporate headquarters after Ms. Park’s funeral service.  Gradually diminishing, the harassment continued until July 2013.


The following is a full translation of Mr. Hwang’s statement.  All text in brackets ([ ]) are added to aid comprehension:

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to every single person who has worked hard to resolve such a difficult issue.  I appreciate Justice Kim Ji-hyung, the mediation committee’s chair, and its two members, Dr. Paik Do-myung and Ms. Jung Kang-ja for their resilience and tenacity in their mediation efforts.  I thank all our researchers.  Their advice made the compensation program possible.  I thank those lawmakers for exhorting and persuading Samsung to address the issue.  I thank the labor and civic activists who rolled up their sleeves to solve the issue as if their own.  I thank the countless volunteers for keeping our 1,023-day sit-in going, and numerous donors for donating money and food.

The apology made by Samsung’s representative director today, to be honest, is not sufficient to the victims and their families.  Indeed, no apology will be sufficient, given countless deceptions and insults wrought upon SHARPS [by Samsung] and the agony of occupational diseases and the pain in the loss of their beloved next-of kin.

However, I will take the apology today as Samsung’s resolution. Compared with its earlier one, Samsung’s new compensation program has expanded metrics to affect victims known and yet unknown to SHARPS.  This is fortunate.  However, it is could have included those who are still left out because they are belonged to a contractor or their illness is not covered by the program.

Samsung agreed to entrust the Korean Occupational Safety and Health Agency with KRW 50 billion ($$44.1 million) in funds it created [to improve workers safety in the electronics industry].  It is praiseworthy because it is not an easy decision for Samsung.  However, we must remember that the fund is made of the sweat and toil of workers.  I would like to ask the KOSHA to take the invaluable meaning of the fund seriously and properly spend it improving the safety and health of electronics workers.

We all still have unfinished tasks.  Occupational disease is not limited to Samsung Electronics’ chip and LCD units. There are workers who grew ill from hazard exposure at Samsung Electro-Mechanics, Samsung SDS, Samsung SDI and many other Samsung affiliates.  There are similar victims at Samsung’s home and overseas operations.  I hope Samsung will launch a more comprehensive scheme for all victims.

Had workers compensation approval not been so difficult, workers and their families would have not suffered this much.  To date, KCOMWEL has only brought despair upon us.  It is time to reform workers compensation and KCOMWEL so they can carry out their original mission of protecting the rights of industrial accident victims. The business owners must be thoroughly investigated and criminally penalized when there is an industrial accident at a place of business.

Prevention is more important than compensation when it comes to occupational disease.  The industrial safety and health law must be strengthened to ensure workers, and indeed all citizens, know and have a say in what chemicals are used [at their workplaces].  It is difficult for workers alone to monitor the safety of their workplaces and provide alternatives.  Especially, this is out of the question at non-unionized workplaces.  Samsung has been suppressing unions at home and abroad. Samsung, at least now, must apologize and promise to respect the right to unionization, Samsung and all other conglomerates have not improved difficult and risky jobs, but instead outsourced them to smaller companies at home and offshore.  To discontinue this, the government and the National Assembly should introduce legislation to strictly hold original vendors accountable, and corporations should set an example by providing accountability plans for safety and health.

I am glad that I can make good on the promise I made to my daughter Yumi.  However, I cannot forget the agonies my family and Yumi had to suffer from.  So many people are sharing in the same pain.  I would like to urge all who are to implement the compensation program or manage the fund to keep this [pain] in mind.  Thank you.


Samsung security guards routinely used excessive force in response to non-violent protests.  The picture was taken on March 9,. 2009 when SHARPS members demanded a meeting with Samsung executives.  Mr. Hwang (on the right in the picture) was thrown on to the floor.

The following is a full translation of the apology By Mr. Kim on Samsung’s behalf.  All text in brackets ([ ]) are added to aid comprehension:

We would like to express our gratitude to mediation committee chair Kim Ji-hyung, and its two members, Dr. Paik Do-myung and Ms. Jung Kang-ja, for in seeking social consensus, settling the issue that we could not solve for ten years.

And I appreciate SHARPS debating [with us] to address the issue against all odds.

Our dear co-workers and their families have suffered for a long time, but Samsung Electronics did not wholeheartedly take care of them sooner.

Our efforts fell short of sufficiently caring for their pain and promptly addressing it.

In the past, Samsung Electronics did not sufficiently and completely manage the risk associated with health hazards at chip and LCD plants.

We would like to use this opportunity to express our sincere apology to employees who suffered and their families.

With this opportunity, Samsung Electronics will be born again as a healthy and safe workplace.

I thank the lawmakers, Woo Won-shik, Sim Sang-jung, and Lee Jung-mi, and labor department director Ahn Kyung-duk and his colleagues for their interest, consultation, and advice for the difficult and long-unsolved issue.

Once again, we deeply apologize to those who are suffering.

We now would like to announce plans to implement the arbitration decision.

Samsung is promising to unconditionally implement the decision announced on Nov. 1, 2018.

We would like to implement the following details.

As agreed with SHARPS and decided by the mediation committee, we have retained law firm Jipyung, an independent body, to run the compensation commission.

SHARPS and we agreed that the commission will be chaired by Kim Ji-hyung, the firm’s managing partner.

As dictated by the arbitration decision and by a detailed plan by the commission chair, Samsung Electronics will, without interruption, make compensation until 2028.

As dictated by the arbitration decision, Samsung Electronics will post its apology and compensation coverage on its corporate website no later than Nov. 30, 2018.

Additionally, Samsung Electronics will, through the new compensation commission, send an apology to each payee to express our consolations.

Samsung Electronics and SHARPS agreed that the KRW 50 billion [$$44.1 million] fund it created for industrial safety will be entrusted with the KOSHA for their impartiality and expertise

Samsung Electronics will do its best effort to bring this social consensus, the result of your hard efforts, to fruition.

Thank you.






SHARPS was marching on when Samsung attempted to shirk its responsibility.  Source: The Hankyoreh

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. should compensate workers falling ill at its LCD and chip plants from 1984 onward, the Mediation Committee said on Nov. 1, 2018 in its final arbitration decision.  The committee also requests a Samsung representative director should publicly read an apology before an audience of its occupational victims and their families to fully express the conglomerate’s sincerity.

A Decade-Long Standoff

Samsung and SHARPS agreed in July that they would consent to the arbitration decision made by the Mediation Committee, an independent body formed in 2014 to broker a deal between the two parties. Though led by a retired supreme court justice, the committee’s efforts bore little fruit.  On Oct. 8, 2015, SHARPS began a sit-in at Samsung’s corporate headquarters after the corporation’s unilateral departure from the mediation structure.  The sit-in lasted 1,023 days until July 2018.

Sit-in and Behind-the-Scenes Efforts

The July agreement was the result of a behind-the-scenes, last-ditch effort by the committee to end a decade-long standoff in which a small labor advocacy group had tenaciously penetrated the wall of silence at the world’s largest tech firm which still boasts its anti-union policy as the core of its corporate culture.

“Since we agreed to do so in July, we will act on the arbitration decision,” Kong Jeong-ok, a medical doctor and a SHARPS founder, told the independent daily Hankyoreh.

“We will keep our promise to completely adhere to the mediator decision and will quickly come up with plans to implement the decision,” Reuters quoted Samsung as saying in a press statement.

Wider Coverage at the Cost of Individual Payouts 

The committee appears to have aim to adjust the ceiling of individual payouts to make sure that as many workers as possible for as wide a variety of diseases as possible will be compensated under its compensation framework.

“To prioritize [the plan’s] coverage, we lowered the ceiling for individual payouts and expanded to coverage to benefit a maximum number of victims,” the committee said in a press statement.

The committee increased the number of diseases covered by the scheme by including such pulmonary conditions as lung cancer.  Samsung launched a limited compensation scheme in 2015 when it walked out of the mediation process.  The scheme did not cover any pulmonary diseases, though workers began to die of lung cancerIn Sept. 2016, KCOMWEL posthumously ruled that a Samsung worker’s lung cancer was occupationally caused.

Press Conference

The committee requested SHARPS and Samsung hold a press conference by the end of November to announce implementation plans and to have a Samsung representative director read the apology.

SHARPS has not released a formal statement yet.  The advocacy group will announce one at the press conference, likely scheduled for mid-November.

The following are key takeaways from the decision:

  • Samsung will compensate former and current workers employed for a year at the semiconductor and LCD plants of Samsung and its contractors between May 17, 1984 and Oct. 31, 2028 who developed a variety of blood disorders, cancers, and pulmonary conditions. (May 17, 1984 was when Samsung’s first memory chip lab went online at the Kiheung plant, now the cluster of occupational disease).
  • The ceiling for individual compensation is set at KRW150 million won (U$132,667 at U$1: KRW 1,130).
  • Samsung will pay up to KRW 5 million ($4,400) for a genetic disorder occupationally caused to the victim.
  • Samsung will pay KRW 3 million and KRW 1 million for stillbirths and miscarriages.
  • The compensation ceiling and coverage period may be subject to renewal after the first 10 years.
  • The 53 SHARPS-profiled workers have to the right to choose between the arbitrated compensation program or Samsung’s own scheme of 2015 for better payout.
  • An independent commission should be formed to manage the new compensation program.
  • A Samsung representative director should publicly read the company’s formal apology in the presence of victims and their families.
  • Samsung should create KRW 50 billion (U$ 44.4 million) in funds aimed at the improvement of workers safety and health in the electronics industry.



CCTV footage is released belying Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s claims about the recent carbon dioxide leak that left two dead and two injured at Samsung’s Giheuing plant on Sept. 4.

Recue In Real Time?

On Sept. 4, three temporary workers from Samsung’s contractor lost consciousness, poisoned by CO2 spewed through ruptured valves in a basement storage.  Two workers are now dead and two, including one Samsung first responder, injured.

Following the leak, Seo Dong-myeon, a Samsung spokesman, said Samsung’s own first responders rescued the three workers poisoned by the gas “almost in real time.”

Security Turnstile:  Putting Security Above Human Life

However, CCTV footage showed two of its own first responders showed up at the scene ten minutes after the leak.  They were not equipped with any protective gear but safety helmets, and had no emergency medical kits.  They spent twenty seconds passing the security turnstile with their ID cards.  Another ten minutes passed before five rescue workers, wearing oxygen masks, showed up. They also used security cards to pass the turnstile.

One Gurney and No Oxygen Kit

A CPR kit arrived 28 minutes after the leak, the footage shows, there was only one gurney.  The rescuers dragged the victims by their feet and performed CPR on them in the hallway.  No first aid oxygen kit was in sight.  A Samsung responder passed out upon getting off the elevator, revealing the fatally high density of CO2 at the site of the leak.

The footage was obtained by a lawmaker and released by the TV network JTBC, which filed this report

The following are image captures from the report (some images are blurred by the JTBC):


Ten minutes into the leak, two Samsung responders without protective gear attempt to pass the security turnstile with their ID cards. The turnstile remained locked until thirty minutes after the leak.



Twenty minutes after the leak, five responders equipped with protective gear showed up. They did not bring a CPR kit or a gurney.



A Samsung rescuer passed out, revealing the high CO2 density of the site.



Victims were pulled by their feet because there was no gurney.



A gurney finally arrived.



A CPR kit finally arrived about twenty minutes after the first response.




Rescue workers performed CPR on a victim on the floor.



A victim passed through the turnstile, now unlocked.


On Sept. 12, SHARPS and civil-society groups formed an ad hoc committee, calling on the government to better regulate Samsung’s safety measures.


Last week’s fatal carbon dioxide leak at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s flagship chip plant claimed another life on Sept 12, as a 54-year-old worker was pronounced dead after eight days in a coma.  His death brought the toll up to two out of the four victims hospitalized on Sept 4. after their exposure to the gas.  One victim died the day he was exposed. The third remains unconscious.  A Samsung paramedic was also injured.

The four victims’ identities were not released.

Temporary Workers and Ruptured Valves

The three non-Samsung victims, all temps from the company’s outsourcer, were poisoned by carbon dioxide as they worked in a basement storage facility for the gas at the company’s Giheung plant in South Korea’s Gyonggi province.  The cause of the leak has yet to be determined, but valves were seen ruptured, according to Yonhap News.


Samsung left the local emergency management system in the dark over the leak, the independent Hankyoreh said on Sept. 12, after obtaining transcripts of phone calls between the company and EMS.

The EMS first contacted Samsung about two hours and 15 minutes after the leak. Samsung said, “the situation is over,” declining the EMS’s assistance.  Asked by the EMS whether and where the victims were hospitalized, Samsung answered it would let them know soon—but it did not.

The EMS had to inquire at all area hospitals.  It finally determined the victims’ whereabouts about two hours and 39 minutes after the leak.

On Sept. 10, the police conducted a search warrant at three locations of Giheung plant, now under probe by a 15-member multi-agency taskforce.

Civil Society Reacts

SHARPS and the two organizations, Gyonggi Environmental Forum and the province branch of the Green Party Korea, have formed an ad hoc committee to monitor the aftermath of the CO2 leak.

“We call on the government to determine whether Samsung has implemented safety measures as ordered in special audits over earlier fatal leaks at other Samsung plants in 2013 and 2014,” said the committee in a press conference on Sept. 12.

In the 2013 audit alone of two separate hydrofluoric acid, leaks the government discovered more than 2,000 safety breaches at Samsung and its outsourcers.






A carbon dioxide leak left a worker dead and three other injured at Samsung’s chip plant.    Photo source: MBC News Desk (YouTube capture)


A gas leak has left one worker dead and two critically injured at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s flagship chip plant—an event reminiscent of a fatal gas leak that hit another Samsung plant five years ago.

On Sept. 4 afternoon, three workers passed out in a basement unit of Samsung’s Giheung plant in Gyonggi province, poisoned by carbon dioxide as they carried firefighting cylinders containing the gas.  Hours later, the youngest one, aged 24, was pronounced dead at the hospital.  The others, 26 and 54 years old respectively, are in critical condition.

Also, Samsung’s own paramedic was hospitalized after getting injured while treating the victims, said Kyeongin Ilbo, a local daily, in an exclusive report.  Samsung did not disclose the paramedic’s hospitalization in earlier press releases or did not report to authorities, the newspaper said on Sept 6.

“The first responder was injured while treating the victims,” Kyeongin quoted a Samsung spokesman as saying. “He will be discharged today, depending on test results on his carbon dioxide exposure.”

As of this posting, the four men’s identities are not released.

History of Leaks

In many ways, the carbon dioxide leak is a rerun of another fatal leak from January 2013. At Samsung’s Hwaseong plant, also in Gyonggi, two expired gaskets of a 500-liter tank leaked twice, spewing a total of ten liters of diluted hydrofluoric acid gas, an impurity remover that can instantly and permanently damage pulmonary organs and corneas.  The leaks killed one workers and injured four others.

Despite the fatality and Samsung’s attempts at covering up, the South Korean government brought criminal charges against four executives and employees of STI, the Samsung contractor responsible for facility maintenance and safety. Only three mid-level Samsung managers were charged.

Pattern of Leaks

The world’s largest tech conglomerate may well attempt again to shirk responsibility and dodge criminal charges.

The victims of the carbon dioxide leak were employees of Samsung’s contractor, a fact which revealed that Samsung still outsources such major first-response jobs as fire prevention and safety.

In 2013, the company used a first-response outsourcer to patch up the leaks and transported the victims to hospital.  The tech conglomerate did not immediately report them to authorities, leading to horrified elementary schools in its vicinity postponing the new semester.  Despite public outcries, the province government did not conduct an epidemiological probe of the area.

Outsourced First Response

The corporate giant’s outsourcing of first response often proved fatal.  In May 2017, six workers were killed and more than twenty were injured when a mobile crane crashed into and felled a fixed crane at the shipyard of Samsung Heavy Industries Co. Ltd in Geoje, Korea.

Samsung bungled first-response efforts, according to an expose by independent news site The Voice of the People.  The company did not bring in government paramedics during the first hour of the accident, during which its own first responders failed to stop the hemorrhaging of a victim who eventually died.


This time, at least, Samsung used its own first-responders to rescue the victims.

However, the Samsung plant reported the leak to its police and fire precincts after the death of the worker, or about two hours after the accident, sidelining the province’s emergency management system.

“We attempted to contact Samsung for a number of times after learning about the leak,” independent daily Hankyoreh quoted an unnamed EMS official as saying.  “We received a report from the company about two hours after the leak.”

“This is a clear violation of the Firefighting Basic Law,” the anonymous source added.

“It did not constitute a gave situation [necessitating us contacting the EMS] until there was a fatality,” a Samsung spokesperson told Yonhap News.


Gyonggi province will launch a special probe into the Samsung plant to determine whether Samsung violated the law when it did not immediately report the leak, Governor Jae-myung, who took office three months ago, said in a Facebook posting.  Separately, he sent an EMS taskforce to the plant to prevent any fallout from the leak.



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If you still believe corporations today are too powerful to be challenged, or you still doubt the power of ordinary people to defy and defeat corporate nastiness and abuse, here is some news for you:  a small labor advocacy group has just extracted long-awaited, major concessions from one of the world’s nastiest and most powerful companies.

Official Triumph

It’s now official.  On July 24, SHARPS and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. signed an agreement, under which a third-party mediation committee will produce an arbitration proposal by October regarding the tech conglomerate’s occupational disease clusters.

The proposal will bind Samsung to make a public apology to its cluster victims, to compensate them under new criteria, and to revamp workplace safety measures—all as proposed by the Mediation Committee.

“It is truly deplorable that the issues of workers having fallen ill and died from on-the-job chemical exposure remained unsolved for more than ten long years,” said Hwang Sang-ki, a SHARPS founder and a 63-year-old taxi driver who lost her then-21-year-old daughter in 2007 to occupationally caused leukemia at Samsung, “just because they were poor ones without money and power.”

“Samsung will proactively cooperate with the Mediation Committee,” said Kim Sung-sik, Samsung’s executive vice president who signed the agreement on his company’s behalf.  “Only a complete solution [of the occupational disease] would console the sickened workers and their families.”

Ramming the Invincibility of Samsung

Samsung needs to turn around its tarnished image ahead of a supreme court ruling for founding family scion Lee Jae-yong, according to multiple local press reports. Lee may face long prison terms after allegedly bribing a now-impeached President Park Geun-hye to facilitate his hereditary takeover of Samsung.

However, it was SHARPS’s tenacious campaign that continued to punch holes in the impenetrable walls of a scandal-ridden Samsung empire.

“We began the sit-in with two desperate tasks in mind,” said SHARPS in a statement after signing the agreement.  “First, we needed to make the world know Samsung’s occupational-disease issue was still ongoing, and second, we needed to have discontinued dialogue with Samsung re-initiated,” SHARPS added.

“After enduring more than 1,000 days on streets, we achieved both,” the advocacy group concluded.

 Ending The Sit-in

On July 25 evening, SHARPS and its supporters held a rally ending their sit-in after 1,023 days.

“What a victory,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, in a video feed at the rally.  “Now we need to see that Samsung is forced to reveal the names of these chemicals [used in production],” added the leader of the 180-million-strong global union organization.  In May 2017, she visited the sit-in to mark the 600th day of the protest.


One of the first nights during SHARPS’ 1,023-day sit-in

On Victims

As of June 2018, SHARPS has profiled 320 victims of Samsung’s cluster. Among them 118 have died.  The advocacy group has, via petition or through court filings, successfully assisted 28 victims of Samsung and others in getting workers compensation.

The following is a full translation of Hwang Sang-ki’s remarks about the agreement.  All brackets ([ ]) are added to aid readability:   

More than thirteen years have passed since my Yumi fell victim to leukemia

She had to tender her resignation while under medical treatment for the disease.  Samsung collected her resignation letter after promising me KRW 50 million [U$44,000] to reimburse some medical expenses I had paid for.  They gave me KRW 5 million (U$4,400], instead. A big corporation should not unscrupulously break its own promise to its own workers who were dying due to on-the-job chemical exposure.

It is truly deplorable that the issues of workers having fallen ill and died from on-the-job chemical exposure remained unsolved for more than ten long years, just because they were poor ones without money and power.

I [often] could not but to ask what the government and corporations are for.

Nevertheless, it is really a relief to get clues to the solution of Samsung’s occupational-disease issue.

I welcome it.

There must be no repeat of such workplace issues in my country.  I am grateful to Mediation Committee Chair and others who have been showing interest in the matter.  Thank you.

Hwang Sang-ki, SHARPS

July 24, 2018


The following is a full translation of the statement SHARPS released on the agreement.  All brackets ([ ]) are added to aid readability:   

  1. Today, SHARPS and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd agreed to accept the arbitration framework proposed by the Mediation Committee.

  2.  It was five years and seven months ago when the proposal for mediation was made.  It was three years and one day ago when the Mediation Committee unveiled its first proposal.  It was 1,022 days ago when we began to sit in, awaiting re-initiation of the dialogue that had never been initiated with Samsung over the mediation proposal.

  3. It still feels less than adequate that arbitration has supplanted direct dialogue of the two parties.  However, we could have not made this invaluable step forward without such long and hard periods.

  4. We appreciate the Mediation Committee spending considerable amounts time and efforts addressing the [occupational disease] issue. Indeed, it was not easy to consent, in advance, to an arbitration proposal without knowing the details.  We decided to place trust in an initiation pledge by the Mediation Committee:  It would perceive the [occupational disease] issue as part of a [broader] social agenda and help solve it in kind.  In its proposal for arbitration., the committee said, “the Mediation Committee has to consider rational criteria that can be used for any future [occupational disease] victims to receive appropriate assistance.”  In the hope that it will make good on this commitment, we expect the arbitration proposal.

  5. It was not an easy decision for Samsung to consent to the proposal.  Since it has made a difficult commitment, we hope the wishes and demands of society reach out to Samsung: it should safeguard the lives and safety of workers in a wholesome way that fits its influence and status.

  6. We wholeheartedly appreciate our supporters who spent two winters and three summers [in a makeshift canopy] without a proper roof or floor despite severe cold snaps and heat waves.  Thanks to you, we did not envy any five-star hotel guests.  We show our respect to victims and their families for their persistence. Holding their hands together, they have, by themselves, endured times of agony, frustration and anger.

  7. As under the agreement, we will end the sit-in at Samsung’s corporate headquarters tomorrow with a rally.  On Oct. 7, 2015, we began the sit-in with two desperate tasks in mind:  First, we needed to make the world know Samsung’s occupational-disease issue was still ongoing, and second, we needed to have discontinued dialogue reinitiated with Samsung. After enduring more than 1,000 days on streets, we achieved both.  This is a valuable triumph made possible by those who supported and who showed solidarity.

  8. We will now revitalize our bodies and souls drained during the outdoor sit-in and anticipate the arbitration proposal.  With the agreement today, we tied the first knot. We hope you altogether closely watch us until the proposal is made and implemented.


July 24, 2018




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It’s been so long overdue that it’s looked hopelessly far off.  However, the day finally has come—Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd has agreed to a binding arbitration framework that will likely compel the world’s most powerful corporation to fully compensate and earnestly apologize to victims of its occupational-disease clusters.

On July 21, Samsung said it would unconditionally act on an arbitration proposal that a once-crippled mediation committee will make by October.  “With a willingness to be ought to seek a solution,” a Samsung spokesman, Kim Jeong-seok told the TV network SBS. “We have decided to accept the proposal by the mediation committee.”

SHARPS also agreed to the proposal.

Samsung did an about-face.

Chaired by a third party and a retired supreme court judge, Kim Ji-hyung, the mediation committee was formed in 2014 when SHARPS and Samsung began their first negotiations.  In July 2015, Samsung, in effect, disabled the committee by rejecting the committee’s proposal for an independent compensation scheme.  The conglomerate has since ended negotiations and launched its own compensation program—all which prompted SHARPS to stage a sit-in at its corporate headquarters in south Seoul.     

Binding Samsung

On July 18, in its last-ditch attempt, the mediation committee upped the ante and proposed a binding arbitration process.  It went further in declaring that it would dissolve itself if either party did not accept the proposal.  The following are highlights although details must be worked out in the next three months:

  • Samsung will begin to put in place safety measures proposed by the mediation committee by October 2018.
  •  Samsung will make a formal apology proposed by the committee by October 2018
  •  Samsung will compensate SHARPS-profiled victims under a new scheme proposed by the committee by October 2018.
  •  Samsung will compensate new victims for the next ten years after it pays its first compensation under the new scheme.
  • SHARPS will end its sit-in within days of the formal signing of the proposal for arbitration.

The three parties will sign the proposal on July 24, Korean time.  SHARPS plans to hold a rally on July 25, declaring an end to the sit-in that began on Oct 8, 2015.

Too Late? Never!

A variety of local media reports have pointed to Samsung’s need to soothe public sentiment ahead of a pending supreme court ruling for Lee Jae-yong, the rising heir of the Samsung empire who was convicted of corruption and bribery, then released earlier this year with a suspended jail term.

“Lee Jae-yong awaits trial for his bribery charges,” said Hwang Sang-ki, a SHARPS founder and father of Hwang Yu-mi,  the first publicly known victim of the Samsung cluster, in an interview with the TV network JTBC.  “Addressing the occupational disease issue has nothing to do with his bribery charges.”  Hwang went on saying: “I have nothing to say because the occupational disease issue has nothing to do with Lee’s trial.”

“The state of affairs has been prolonged because of Samsung,” said Kyunghyang, an independent daily, in an editorial on July 22.  “By accepting the proposal for arbitration, Samsung showed its willingness to proactively solve the current state of affairs.”

“Samsung has been bent solely upon shirking its responsibility,” said Hankyoreh, another independent newspaper in its editorial.  “It must be made clear that addressing the leukemia crisis [at Samsung] and Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-yong’s court trial are two separate issues.”

SHARPS will release comments after signing the proposal.

On Victims

As of June 2018, SHARPS has profiled 320 victims of Samsung’s cluster. Among them 118 have died.  The advocacy group has, via petition or through court filings, successfully assisted 28 victims of Samsung and others in getting workers compensation.


The following is a full, near-direct translation of the mediation committee’s proposal for the arbitration process.  All brackets ([ ]) are added to aid readability:   


Second Arbitration Proposal by the Mediation Committee to Settle Issues of Leukemia and Other Workplace Diseases at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.  

July 18, 2018


The Purpose and Goal of the Proposal

The Mediation Committee to Settle Issues of Leukemia and Other Workplace Diseases at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Mediation Committee”) has been proceeding with mediation regarding three items on the mediation agenda–an apology [by Samsung], compensation and preventive measures [regarding occupational hazards]—for the three parties, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Samsung”), Supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (hereinafter, “SHARPS”), and the Family Settlement Committee (hereinafter, “Settlement Committee”) since Dec. 18, 2014, when the first mediation process began.  

On July 23, 2015 the Mediation Committee unveiled an arbitration proposal, which led to an amicable agreement between Samsung and Settlement Committee over compensation and an apology.  In particular, regarding preventive measures, mediation continued until Jan. 12, 2016 when the three parties agreed in writing to preventive measures.

However, except for preventive measures, Samsung and SHARPS (hereinafter referred to as “the two parties”) have found themselves at loggerheads over the other remaining two items, despite a variety of attempts by the Mediation Committee at a variety of forms of mediation.

Heavily weighed down by the responsibility for its failure to bring the two parties to final agreement, the Mediation Committee could no longer leave the situation as it stood and concluded it should rightly provide an opportunity for a new solution. After contacting Samsung and SHARPS, the committee confirmed that the two parties basically agreed to restart mediation.

Since the rise of semiconductor-pertinent health issues in our society, not only academic and social debates but also court and KCOMWEL rulings have emerged regarding industrial injury treatment and compensation approval. Every workplace has accumulated experience of [occupational] disease support, compensation formation, and distribution.

Accordingly, after reviewing issues and demands raised during the first period of mediation and comparing them with occupational-disease compensation schemes of the three semiconductor makers—Samsung, SK Hynix and LG Display—the Mediation Committee concluded that a social consensus, tacit or otherwise, has been formed, or the rift in opinion has narrowed over many of the issues, which has in turn substantially improved the possibility of an agreement [between the two parties].

Nevertheless, it is confirmed that there is still a difference in opinion between the two parties.  While from its own objective point of view, the Mediation Committee concluded that the difference can be reconciled acceptably by the two parties, after the mediation process, the committee has come to entirely understand that it is not an issue that is easily accepted by the two parties.  Therefore,the Mediation Committee concluded it cannot be easily addressed through mediation—[indeed] practically impossible.

Meanwhile, the Mediation Committee has confirmed that the two parties have not abandoned their willingness to reach a settlement despite the differences in opinion and that there is continual [public] interest in and support for the Mediation Committee from many sectors of society because the issue is of significant meaning as part of a [broader] social agenda. More, the Mediation Committee had to renew its awareness of the desperate need to come up with a more creative and productive solution as part of fulling not only an immediate social agenda but also a future common social value.

Accordingly, the Mediation Committee decided to restart the once-suspended mediation process and proposes that the process be replaced by arbitration, in which Mediation Chair would provide an [binding] arbitration proposal for the two parties to accept.

Proposal: Principles and Foundation

Before the second mediation/arbitration period, the two parties should agree to comply with the arbitration proposal. The process will move forward on condition of the success of the arbitration. The Mediation Committee will assume that there the parties have no willingness to entrust it with powers to arbitrate, declare an end to the process and dissolve itself if either party rejects the proposal.

The Mediation Committee Chair will put his best effort into formulating q rational proposal based on the spirit of compromise by considering the two parties’ demands and allegations in an inclusive way that would not undermine the core values each party attempts to safeguard.

Regarding points of contention, the Mediation Committee will secure objectivity and rationality through discussion and examination in consultation with [third party] authoritative experts.

The arbitration proposal will include practical guidance for the common goal members of our society should achieve in order to pursue future common values.

Methods and Contents of the 2nd Mediation/Arbitration Process 

Methods. The second mediation period will proceed under agreement by the two parties:  Prior to the period, the two parties will comply with the proposal by Mediation Committee Chair; and it will be proceeded with on condition the proposal be completely acted upon.

Disclosure and Confidentiality.

Procedural Disclosure and Confidentiality

Proposal for second-period initiation will be disclosed

The signing by the three parties—Samsung, SHARPS, Mediation Committee—of the arbitration proposal will be disclosed

Discussion of the proposal and preparations are confidential

The final proposal and its signing ceremony will be disclosed

Individual compensation and its details will be confidential

Key takeaways of the arbitration proposal

New compensation scheme for occupational diseases

– A new scheme, set to be enacted on the effect date of the arbitration proposal, includes entitlements for recipients, scope of the diseases and metrics for compensation.  Accordingly, a new compensation commission will be formed.

-Compensation for Victims represented by SHARPS

– For victims represented by SHARPS (and for separate entitlement criteria)  a compensation scheme will be formed (Based on Samsung’s already-existing compensation scheme and the new scheme, the Mediation Committee Chair will finalize the payouts)

An apology by Samsung

– Samsung will accept an apology proposal—based on the mediation proposal—made by the Mediation Committee as part of arbitration

SHARPS’s end of the sit-in

Upon agreeing to the arbitration process, SHARPS will end the sit-in within days.

Preventive Measures and CSR

– The Mediation Committee will devise schemes to improve working conditions at semiconductor plants and to support safety management of [Samsung’s] contractors and the electronics industry for Samsung and the government.

Procedures and Timetable. The second period will be proceeded with as promptly as possible. Any inevitable change or modification to the progress of the process will be duly notified to the two parties.

Proposed Timetable

July 18. Proposal for Arbitration is released from Mediation Committee to Samsung and SHARPS

July 21.  Reply from Samsung and SHARPS to the Mediation Committee

July 24.  Signing of the proposal for arbitration

August-September.  Discussion and Preparations for an arbitration proposal

September-early October.  Signing of the arbitration proposal.

October. Compensation will be released to SHARPS-profiled victims

Effective in Oct.  2018, a third compensation commission is formed to compensate victims in the next ten years.

Closing remarks

It’s been a considerably long time since the Mediation Committee was formed. Thanks to the virtue of concession and compromise exhibited by the parties involved, some accomplishments were made. However, the pain and agony of the directly involved parties outweigh what’s been accomplished because there are still too a considerable number of unsolved issue for the accomplishments to be touted. The Mediation Committee has felt remorse and regret for its failure to accomplish its mission, despite its own perception of the current issue as part of  a significant social agenda and a public plea for an amicable solution.

The Mediation Committee has now dismissed these negative thoughts and started anew with an attempt at arbitration as a way to reach agreement. This is how the committee would assist the two parties in bringing their shining efforts to magnificent fruition. This is because in addition to the direct parties, for those who on the quiet supported and showed interest [in the Mediation Committee]  An amicable solution should become part of the future common value pursued by our society.

As discussed at the initiation of the Mediation Committee, the solution should be led by the parties directly involved. The Mediation Committee decided to make an arbitration proposal because the parties should inevitably make certain degrees of compromise and concession. Most of all, this is because the current issue is not only a temporary issue between the parties, but also an issue pertaining to the health of all working people in our society.  Therefore, the Mediation Committee has to consider rational criteria that can be used for any future [occupational disease] victims to receive appropriate assistance.

The Mediation Committee holds the current issue not as one for the two parties and itself as a substantial issue that should be addressed societally. Mediation Committee seek all your support to make the arbitration a success.

I, the Chair, will, with my initial intention in mind, do my best to create an amicable solution  in in the interests of the two parties.  I hope the two parties take the intention of the Mediation Committee as it is and set the arbitration process in motion promptly.  I earnestly hope a good outcome comes along and makes a chapter in history.  I look forward to responses from the two parties.

Thank you,

Kim Ji-hyung,

Chair, Mediation Committee