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As of July 2, 2018, SHARPS’ sit-in has continued for more than 1000 days.  On Oct.7, 2015, tens of SHARPS members pitched a makeshift canopy to squat at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s corporate headquarters in south Seoul as, the day prior, the world’s largest tech firm walked out of negotiations over sustainable and publicly verifiable compensation and worker safety schemes.

SHARPS celebrated the milestone of its resilient campaigning with three days of protests and teach-ins.  The 1000th day fell on the same week that, 30 years ago, saw the occupationally caused death of a young worker.

On July 2, 1988, Mun Song-myeon, a 15-year-old worker, died of mercury poisoning, after two months of injecting liquid metal into thermometers at a factory in Seoul.

Chronicle of A Death Foretold

The two months leading up to Mun’s death revealed the government’s strikingly poor oversight of workplace chemical exposure. His employer refused to approve Mun’s petition for workers compensation although a managerial consent was required of workers comp petitioners.  The ministry of labor rejected the medical opinion by a doctor at Seoul National University Hospital, citing that his medical institution, the country’s finest, was not designated as a worker comp examiner.

Mun died just a month after a strong campaign by medical and labor activists compelled the government to approve his workers comp.

South Korea’s government launched its first medical clinic specializing in occupational medicine in 1999.

“Mun who died 30 years ago was not trained in chemical safety, Hwang Sang-ki, the father of Hwang Yu-mi, who suffered the first publicly known death of Samsung’s blood disorder cluster, said at a press conference SHARPS called on July 2 jointly with a commemorative committee for Mon.  “Neither did my daughter Yu-mi, who died in 2007.”

“Two years ago, young workers about Mun’s age came to suffer permanent vision loss because of chemical exposures at Samsung and LG’s second-tier subcontractor,” Kim Myong-hwan, chair of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), said at the conference.

Profile of Continuing Deaths

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 comp, said Lim Ja-woon, SHARPS’s legal counsel, in a presentation at a workshop on July 3.

Since its first ruling in favor of a victim in June 2011, the court issued 13 rulings in victims’ favor over six occupational diseases.  Since its first such approval in March 2013, The KCOMWEL approved 15 indvidual petitions over seven diseases.

Among the 28 victims, 14 are now deceased.  Both petition and court proceedings are time-consuming.  On average, it takes 605 days for a KCOMWEL petition to be proceeded while the administrative court on average spends 1,405 days before ruling.

In sum, a victim, already in dire need of medical care and financial support, has to wait five and a half years to see a ruling if his or her workers comp case is adjudicated in the court system after a tedious petition process.

SHARPS wrapped up the three days of solidarity and celebration, with about 1,000 supporters forging human chains around Samsung’s headquarters.

 

 

 

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The 1,000 Days: Snapshot 1

Since it abruptly ended dialogue with SHARPS in October 2015, Samsung has instituted its own scheme to pay some victims token compensation without admitting any wrongdoing.

SHARPS’s sit-in was an urgent crimp in Samsung’s attempt to divide victims and scupper the campaign.

The Samsung conglomerate appeared emboldened.  Three months earlier, in July 2017, it won shareholder approval for the merger of two key affiliates, paving the way for Lee Jae-yong, also known as Jay Y. Lee, to take over managerial control of Samsung Electronics from his bedridden father Lee Kun-hee.

After the merger approval—assisted by the country’s National Pension Service (NPS), a core Samsung shareholder—the conglomerate probably no longer felt the need to ingratiate itself with a public wary of its hereditary managerial succession and ever-expanding political influence.

Snapshot 2

However, one year into the sit-in, in October 2016, the balance began to tilt toward SHARPS.  Jay’s attempt to burnish his image as young heir of the Samsung empire backfired as Galaxy 7 Note—dubbed the “Jae-yong phone” in South Korea— turned out to be literally fire-prone.  Jay was elected to the board of directors amidst growing global skepticism about his managerial competence.

Snapshot 3

By November 2016, Samsung emerged at the epic center of national protests against then-President
Park Geun-hye, who, among other things, entrusted her shamanic confidant to raise slush funds from corporation.  The cult-worshiping associate, Cho Soon-sil pressed the NPS to support the aforementioned merger in return for gifts and bribes from Jay.

Park was impeached in March 2017. A month earlier, Jay landed in jail on five accounts of corruption.  He was released a year later as his five-year sentence was waived.  A supreme court ruling is still pending.

As for the NPS, its chairman, Moon Hyung-pyo was arrested in December 2016 for swaying the Samsung merger vote.  In July 2018, the service’ acting CIO resigned reportedly after an internal audit turned up his role in supporting the Samsung merger.

Snapshot 4

Elected on the wave of mass protest in May 2017, reform-minded President Moon Jae-in has launched a fresh probe into Samsung’s union-busting drive.  The investigation has to date unearthed a diversity of anti-unionization tactics raging from intimidation to bribery and retaliation, and involving not only Samsung executives but also police officers and labor ministry aides.  

One of the most shocking findings:  Samsung used a police detective as a middleman to bribe the father of a contractor-worker who committed suicide after frustration with Samsung’s union-busting.

In May 2014, Yeom Ho-seok, 34 years old, asphyxiated himself to death with burning charcoal in his car.  Samsung paid the father KRW 600 million (U$5.4 million) to claim Yeom’s body.  The father, who had abandoned his son as an infant, called the police which sent 300 cops in full riot gear to seize Yeom’s body from the morgue.

A few days ahead of his election as President in May 2018, Mr. Moon agreed to the policy framework proposed by SHARPS regarding Samsung. The agreement, as with all other electoral pledges in the world, is non-binding.

Nevertheless, President Moon should make good on this promise because SHARPS and its supporters were integral contingents to the mass protests, now aptly called the Candlelight Revolution, that elected him to the presidency.

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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김도현

Kim Do-hyun, Samsung executive-turned ambassador to Vietnam:  “Ambassadors must serve from a corporate perspective.”  Source:  Internet capture

 

 

A Samsung executive has been named the Republic of Korea’s ambassador to Vietnam—yet another controversial move by the reform-minded Moon Jae-in government elected a year ago on a pledge to address labor issues at Samsung and the other big conglomerates known as chaebol.

Conflict of Interest

On April 29, the government named Kim Do-hyun, a Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. executive responsible for smartphone sales in Europe, to be ambassador to Vietnam, conflating public and corporate interests—in Vietnam, the Samsung conglomerate is the largest foreign employer responsible for more than 20 percent of GDP and more than 25 percent of exports , according to the Hanoi office of Korea International Trade Association, a business lobby.

Expanding at Breakneck Speed

Since 2013, Samsung Electronics and other affiliates of Samsung Group have been aggressively expanding in the southeastern country.  In 2013 alone, Samsung Electronics hired 20,000 female assemblers right out of high school for cell and smart phones.  By 2015, at their peak, Samsung’s two smartphone assembly plants, on average, hired more than 2,000 new workers a week.

What made the rapid expansion also possible was Samsung’s privileged status as investor in Vietnam; Samsung is exempt from taxes and factory sites are free.

As of 2018, Samsung has hired about 160,000 at its operations and another 20,000 in its local supply chains in the country, according to the trade association.

Flashpoint 

Samsung does not disclose labor and safety records in Vietnam.  However, its ever-sprawling production hub has been marked by flash riots and consistent stories of worker abuse.

In Jan. 2014, violence broke out in northern Thai Nguyen province where Samsung was building a $3.2 billion smartphone plant, leaving thirteen injured, four critically.

In March 2017, some Vietnamese workers’ scuffles with Korean security guards flared up into riot at a Samsung Display factory site.

Both sites were being built by Samsung C&T, the conglomerate’s construction unit.

In Dec. 2017, Vietnam-based NGO CGFED and Sweden-based IPEN released a joint study finding Samsung’s smartphone female assemblers in Vietnam chronically suffer extreme fatigue, fainting dizziness, and even miscarriages.

 

 

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Intimidation

Samsung fiercely disputed the results of the first-ever joint survey by global and local NGOs.  It threatened the groups with a lawsuit, prompting the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to respond.

“We have also asked Samsung for clarification on the allegations received that workers in the factories were also threatened with lawsuits if they talked to people outside the company about working conditions following the report’s publication last December,” said the UN High Commissioner in a press release on March 20, 2018.

“While an assessment of the findings of the report requires a response by the competent authorities,” added the commissioner, “it is unacceptable that researchers or workers reporting on what they consider to be unhealthy and inadequate working conditions are intimidated by private or public officials.”

Maverick or Company Man

The 51-year-old Kim’s appointment is out of the ordinary, given the fact that the Vietnam ambassadorship is reserved for assistant-ministerial level diplomats for the Eastern Asian country’s rising importance as a trading partner.

Local corporate media painted the new ambassador as a kind of maverick.  In 2004, as a mid-ranking official at the foreign department, Kim blew the whistle on his supervisor who made “contemptuous remarks” about the then-President Roh Moo-hyun and his security adviser for their attempts at a new defense framework independently of the U.S.  Kim’s revelations led to the resignation of the foreign minister.

Since his departure from the government, Kim has worked up the corporate ladder at Samsung where he started as global CSR head in 2013. He resigned as global business manager, Europe and the former USSR, in 2018.

Recommended From Outside

“Kim was recommended from outside [the foreign ministry],” an anonymous government source told independent Kyunghyang newspaper, without further elaborating what was meant by “outside.”

As for Kim, he did not hide his willingness to protect corporate interests as ambassador.  “Ambassadors must serve from a corporate perspective,” the new ambassador said in an interview with business daily Financial News.

“Since it is doing extremely well and already making up more than 25 percent of Vietnamese exports, Samsung would not need help,” Kim said, not even bothering to distance himself from his former employer.

“Samsung always comes up with an alternative.” Kim said about his experience with the company.  “It has a system that always rectifies errors.”

“Dreams and imaginations come true—this global surrealism is the corporate culture of Samsung,” said the former Samsung man who just assumed the most important South Korean government post in Vietnam.

Doubts

Kim’s appointment cast doubts over the Moon Jae-in government’s commitment to addressing labor issues at Samsung.  In March 2017, the then-Presidential frontrunner Moon agreed to a policy framework on Samsung, which included seeking a rightful solution of Samsung’s occupational disease cluster and better oversight of its global supply chains.

In April 2018, the Moon government’s civil rights agency and industry ministry sided with Samsung in its rejection of an infirm former employee’s request for the disclosure of chemical exposure she sustained while on the job at its LCD display lab.

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.

 

greet_major_pujChair

In a legally impeccable move, civil-rights watchdog chair Park Un-jong temporarily suspended a court order for Samsung to disclose chemicals used in LCD production.   Source: Website capture

A South Korean government entity has sided with Samsung in its rejection of an order to disclose chemicals used in LCD production, adding to concerns that the conglomerate’s undue political clout remains not just unscathed but sill overarching, after one year into a new reformist government that came to office as a result of months of mass protests against political corruption and corporate malfeasance.

Order Suspended

A panel at the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, a government civil-rights watchdog, on April 2, suspended a court order compelling Samsung Display Co., Ltd to disclose chemicals it uses in LCD production to a former female employee who has been seeking compensation for multiple sclerosis she said she contracted due to chemical exposure at a Samsung LCD lab.

Earlier, in August 2017, the country’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Lee Hee-jin, 34 years old, who had been seeking the information, vaulted by her former employer as trade secrets, to establish evidence that would tie her incurable malady to routine chemical hazards at Samsung.

Lee was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, only three years after her employment with the world’s largest LCD maker, fresh out of high school.

All Samsung’s Women?

The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission’s decision was especially toxic—the entity, mandated to curb government abuse to protect citizens, is now shielding Samsung from its impoverished occupation-disease victims seeking to know how they became fatally ill.

At first, its chair, Park Un-jong, a legal philosopher, ex officio ordered the suspension of the court order until her panel was convened.

20170113_imgSamsung Executive

One of Park’s three full-time panel members is a former Samsung executive Kim Eun-mi (pictured) made the temporary order permanent.  Source: Website capture

Park’s decision was perhaps formally impeccable, except that one of the three full-time members of her nine-member panel included Kim Eun-mi.  Kim, a retired judge, worked as a human resources director and a compliance officer at two Samsung affiliates in 1996-2007 as a professor in 2007-2009 at a university owned by the conglomerate.

Kim excused herself from the meeting, the commission said in a press release on April 3, while the panel discussed on Samsung’s petition.

However, as of this posting, the commission did not release the rationale of its decision or evidence of Kim’s absence from the meeting or decision making on Samsung.

Handing out Money Alone Is Not Bribery”

The commission’s decision came on the heels of a higher court’s waiver in February 2018 of a 30-month prison sentence for Lee Jae-yong, also known as Jay Lee, detained under corruption and bribery allegations.

Judge Cheong Hyeong-sik slashed Lee’s sentence to two and a half years from five by scrapping bribery convictions related to Lee’s takeover of managerial control of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.  Cheong treated as briberies only KRW 3.6 billion (U$3.4 million) out of a total of KRW$43.3 billion (U$41.1 million) Lee gave to the now-impeached president Park Geun-hye and her shamanic adviser and friend, Choi Soon-sil.

Judge

Judge Cheong Hyeong-sik seems to have a hard time distinguishing between bribery and extortion.   Source: Internet capture

“Handing out money itself does not constitute bribery,” Cheong told to the conservative daily Chosun Ilbo, commenting on his ruling, without specifying who gave money to who for what.

“It would be hard for Lee to reject when the president [Park] asked,” the judge went on, turning bribery into a sort of extortion.

Union Busting

Samsung’s standoff with civil society and the government will likely continue as it is facing a fresh round of government investigations and public anger.  On April 2, the prosecution said it would launched a new probe into Samsung’s union-busting scheme as its recent raid of the conglomerate over new bribery allegations turned up more than 6,000 documents that delineate Samsung’s efforts to quash any unionization drive.

In 2013, the conglomerate’s anti-union guidelines were leaked to the press, prompting a government probe.   The government cited lack of evidence and ended the investigation.

Free Like A Jailbird

On April 3, a freed Jay Lee emerged in Instagram postings by Akira Back, a Korean-Canadian celebrity chef.   With a supreme court ruling still pending and ongoing investigations into fresh corruption allegations, Lee will enjoy wining and dining while he can.

JayaKIRA

Released from jail on suspicious gronds,  Lee Jae-yong, Samsung’s heir apparent, appears to attempt to enjoy his freedom while it lasts.    Source: Instagram

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.

On April 9, 2018, parts of the posting were corrected or expanded for better clarity.

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“Miscarriages are extremely common in Samsung’s Vietnam operations,” finds a new study by IPEN and CGFED.  Source: IPEN website caputre

 

Women workers who assemble smartphones in the rapidly expanding Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. Vietnam operations chronically suffer extreme fatigue, fainting and dizziness at work, a joint study by international rights groups has found.

And miscarriages are so extremely common that they have come to be expected.

“The workers’ experiences of frequent fainting, dizziness, miscarriages, standing for eight-to-twelve hours, and alternating day/night shift work are documented,” the two joint authors , the Hanoi-based Research Center for based Research Center for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) and IPEN, a Göteborg, Sweden-based global environmentalist network, said on Nov. 3.

Vietnam: A New Flashpoint for Samsung.

The study, Stories of Women Workers In Vietnam’s Electronics Industry, confirms SHARPS’ and many activists’ long-held belief that Vietnam has been emerging as a new flashpoint for concerns about Samsung’s ongoing, oft-fatal disregard for worker safety and health.

Since 2008, the world’s largest technology company has made strides into Vietnam, where it has now become the largest foreign investor and the largest foreign employer.  With a yearly turnover of US$36 billion, Samsung makes up 69 percent of the annual revenue of US$53 billion of Vietnam’s electronics industry, its largest foreign-currency earner.

Currently, at two factories in the north of Hanoi, about 116 thousand workers assemble more than 50 percent of Samsung mobile phones and 100 percent of high-end Galaxy smartphones.

About 80 percent of the workforce are women in their twenties.

To date little is known about the working conditions of these workers.  In Sept. 2016, when Samsung recalled fire-prone Galaxy 7 Notes, the Vietnamese workers had to assemble 7 million replacements during the five-day Harvest Moon holidays.

Also, in Feb. 2017, a riot flared up after scuffles between workers and security guards over crowded gate turnstiles at a Samsung Display factory in Vietnam

Unprecedented Study

The CGFED and IPEN study, a combination of sector research and hours of interviews of 45 women workers at the two Samsung mobile phone factories, is the first-ever attempt at shedding light on the company’s negligence in worker safety and health at its new production hub.

Here are some highlights:

  • None of the 45 workers, 25-years-old on average, received a copy of their labor contracts—a violation of Vietnam’s law.
  • Workers reported that miscarriages are extremely common—even expected.
  • Workers must stand throughout their 8-to-12-hour shifts and many are kept on alternating day and night shift schedules, regardless of weekends.
  • Pregnant workers usually stand for the entire shift to avoid having the company deduct money from their wages for taking breaks.
  • More than half of the interviewed women have children, but are separated from them.  The children live with their grandparents in another town or city.
  • Workers reported problems with eyesight, nose bleeds, and stomachaches, as well as bone, joint, and leg pain.
  • Workers’ lives are controlled inside and outside of work.  Breaks are short and limited, and workers must request special passes to use the restroom. Workers are wary of speaking about work because of fear of reprisals.
  • Despite the fact that workers are stationed in open factory settings where other workers use a variety of substances, they did not consider assembly line work a chemical risk.

Same Old, Same Old

From long working hours to standing and working, what’s happening in Samsung’s Vietnam operations happened or is happening in Samsung’s Korean plants.  In July 2017, the KCOMWEL approved a workers compensation claim filed by a Samsung LCD worker.  She was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia caused by six years of chemical exposure and long and rotational work shifts.  Before her diagnosis, she suffered from chronic fatigue, irregular periods, and infertility.

Samsung’s Denials      

The two activist groups called on the company and the Vietnamese government to disclose more information about Samsung’s working conditions to determine a causal link between the frequent miscarriages and labor practices.

“Some of the [Vietnam’s Samsung] workers think it is because of their standing and walking around early in pregnancy,” Joseph DiGangi, IPEN’s science and technical advisor, told JTBC, “but we really have no information about the cause.”

Samsung said there is no work-caused miscarriage, according to JTBC.  A litigious Samsung has threatened CGFED with a libel lawsuit over the study according to a Facebook post by Jeong-ok Kong, a medical doctor and a SHARPS founder.

About 4,000, or 4.3 percent of the female workforce at Samsung’s two mobile-phone operations in Vietnam, are currently pregnant, JTBC quoted Samsung as saying.

joe

Joseph DiGangi, speaking for IPEN, calls on Samsung to disclose more information about labor practices at its Vietnam operations.  Source: JTBC capture

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.

Capture22

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.

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.

 

박상우

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.