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Photographs of Samsung’s occupational-disease victims were displayed at the entrance to a National Assembly hearing in Oct. 2012 (ohmynews.com).

After six years of campaigns and petitions over 56 occupational-disease deaths at the world’s largest chipmaker, SHARPS has agreed to enter dialogue with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. over the question of compensation for the victims of the company’s blood-disorder clusters and their families.

“Samsung’s dialogue proposal is the result of six years of our ceaseless efforts,” said SHARPS at a press conference January 22.

“Samsung has treated my daughter’s leukemia as though it was a random disease,” said Hwang Sang-ki, who lost her daughter Yumi to occupationally caused leukemia at Samsung.  “They also treated me like a heinous fraudster,” said the 58-year-old taxi driver whose lone outcry for her daughter’s untimely death six years ago led to the formation of SHARPS.

“Because the public has been scorning Samsung, thanks to our long campaign, the company agreed to dialogue,” Hwang concluded.

Ploys

This is not the first time Samsung sought out direct dialogue with SHARPS.  And to date, all proposals have come up with ploys.  In September 2012, through its lawyers, Samsung proposed to seek arbitration on an appeal lawsuit brought by SHARPS, on behalf of a leukemia victim’s family, against the Korea Labor Welfare Corporation, the South Korean government’s workers compensation entity.  SHARPS rejected the proposal because Samsung, a third party to the lawsuit, called for dropping the lawsuit.  In October 2012, Samsung leaked a false story to the media, claiming that it has begun dialogue with SHARPS.

It was November of last year when Samsung sent SHARPS a written request for dialogue through a lawyer representing the company in the appeal lawsuit.  In December, SHARPS accepted the proposal.  In January 2013, Samsung complied with SHARPS’s request and confirmed SHARPS’s acceptance in writing.

The following is the timeline:

March 6, 2007  Hwang Yumi, Samsung’s former chip line worker, died of leukemia.
Sept. 28, 2012  Samsung made its first request for dialogue with SHARPS, on the condition that SHARPS would drop the ongoing workers compensation lawsuit.  SHARPS rejected it.
Oct. 17, 2012  Some media outlets began to run false stories that Samsung had initiated dialogue with SHARPS.
Oct. 18, 2012  Testimony by Samsung executives at a National Assembly hearing confirmed that the aforementioned media reports are false.
Nov. 27, 2012  Choi Wu-su, president of Samsung’s device solution unit, sent a written request for dialogue through a lawyer representing Samsung at the workers’ comp lawsuit
Dec. 20, 2012  SHARPS accepted the request in a letter to Samsung Representative Director Kim Jong-jung.
Jan. 4,  2013  SHARPS in writing urged Samsung to express its willingness to dialogue in writing.
Jan. 11, 2013  Representative Director Kim notified SHARPS, in writing, of the formation of a negotiation team.

Maneuvering

In a letter dated January 11, Choi Wu-su, president of Samsung’s device solution unit, said the company tapped an in-house lawyer and a human resources executive for dialogue with SHARPS.

However, the company appears to be continuing its maneuvering by leaking unsubstantiated leads to the media.   On January 22, the independent Hankyoreh described a new remarkable proposal under consideration at Samsung for the occupational disease victims, citing an anonymous Samsung executive.  “If necessary, we can raise a special fund for the people who developed leukemia not just at Samsung but also anywhere at home and abroad,” the newspaper quoted the unnamed source as saying.

Over the past six years,  SHARPS has profiled 155 workers who contracted various forms of leukemia, multiple sclerosis, and aplastic anemia after employment in the South Korean electronics industry.  As of June 2012, 63 of the 155 have died.  The majority of the workers, 138, were employed at Samsung Electronics, Samsung Electro-Mechanics, and Samsung SDS—the three electronics affiliates of the Samsung Group, the country’s largest conglomerate.  Of the 63 deaths, 56 were Samsung employees.

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