Posts Tagged ‘Hwang Yumi’

Viewfinder, an Al Jazeera program showcasing independent talent worldwide, on Aug. 27 broadcast A Father’s Protest, a 25-minute documentary directed by Ligyeong Hong on Hwang Sang-ki, the father of Hwang Yumi who died in March 2007 of the leukemia she had developed while working at a Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. chip plant.

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A series of protests and petitions has stopped Seoul National University from hiring Hwang Chang-gyu, former semiconductor chief of Samsung, as visiting scholar.

After protests by SHARPS and student groups on campus, the Sociology department of Seoul National University (SNU) has reneged on plans to hire a former Samsung executive as a visiting scholar.

The SNU sociology faculty requested the university administration discontinue “administrative procedures” to appoint Hwang Chang-gyu, CEO of Samsung’s semiconductor unit between 2004 and 2008, to the cushy position, the department said in a statement posted on its website Jan. 21.

Hwang was once internationally famous for doubling memory chip capacity every year between 2002 and 2008. Hwang’s stint as head of Samsung’s semiconductor unit also is also infamous for a big push on production speed and volume at the cost of workplace safety.

Hwang Yumi, the first leukemia victim who came out against Samsung, was hired at the Samsung chip unit in 2003 when Hwang Chang-gyu began his big push on speed and volume.  In 2005, she was diagnosed with leukemia.  In 2007, Yumi died at the age of 23.  Her family’s public outcry led to the formation of SHARPS.

The month-long attempt at Hwang’s hiring inspired protests at one of South Korea’s most prestigious colleges, from law school to the department seeking to bring him in-house.  The sociology faculty found itself under public pressure and only grudgingly renounced the plans.  “We feel deeply responsible and offer a sincere apology to Dr. Hwang [Chang-gyu] for the abnormal end to his hiring,” said the faculty in the statement.

The faculty went on to pontificate:  “We express concerns about the bias expressed in statements by students.  Interpreting Dr. Hwang’s hiring as a move to desert labor and side with capital cannot rescue sociology from the 20th century paradigm.”

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Seoul National University students and SHARPS voice opposition to the appointment of Hwang Chang-gyu, former CEO of Samsung’s semiconductor unit, as a visiting professor.

SHARPS and students activists at Seoul National University have formed a task force to thwart the university’s month-long attempt to appoint a former executive of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. to the Sociology department as a visiting professor.

On Jan. 14, the activists and bereaved family members of Samsung blood-disorder victims rallied at the administration building of SNU, calling for the country’s top university to rescind plans to appoint Hwang Chang-gyu, CEO of Samsung’s semiconductor unit in 2004-2008, to the prestigious position.

Hwang’s Law

In 2002, as CTO of Samsung, Mr. Hwang could claim a global reputation when he announced that Samsung would continue to double memory density every year—he dubbed this process Hwang’s Law.  Indeed, Samsung met this goal each year between 2002 and 2008.   However, Samsung has since been unable to develop a viable technology to live up to Hwang’s Law.


Hwang Chang-gyu, former CEO of Samsung’s semiconductor unit, does not know much about sociology but was once good at doubling memory density.

What really drove Hwang’s Law was Samsung’s belief in speed and volume.  As technology blogger Chris Edwards rightly predicted in 2007 regarding the end of Hwang’s Law:  “What is more likely is that Samsung will use the process developed for the 64Gb memory to make cheaper 8, 16 and 32Gb devices come 2009 when this process is meant to [enter] volume production.”

Hwang’s Deadly Law

Samsung’s young, mostly female, employees have worked excessively long hours under hazardous conditions to make the staggering speed and volume of chip production possible.  As of March 2012, SHARPS has profiled 155 workers who contracted various forms of leukemia, multiple sclerosis and aplastic anemia after employment in the electronics industry in South Korea.  More than 50 percent are former Samsung employees.  As of June, 2012, of the 155, 63 have died.

“Hwang Chang-gyu belongs in prison, not college,” said Hwang Sang-ki, the father of Hwang Yumi. His daughter was hired at the Samsung chip unit in 2003 when Hwang Chang-gyu began his big push on speed and volume.  In 2005, she was diagnosed with leukemia.  In 2007 Yumi died at the age of 23.   “Hwang Chang-gyu violated laws and left numerous workers ill and busted union drives,” the 58-year-old father said at the rally.


Hwang Sang-ki, the father of a Samsung leukemia victim, Hwang Yumi: “Hwang Chang-gyu belongs in prison, not college.”

Not a Sociologist

The 60-year-old Mr. Hwang, with a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Massachusetts, has no credentials as a sociologist.  And his post-Samsung career is not impressive at all.  In 2010, Mr. Hwang was named National Chief Technology Officer, a newly created government position responsible for selecting and supporting an emerging strategic industry.  An inquiry by lawmakers discovered that in fiscal 2012 his office spent KRW4.7 billion (U$444 thousand) on remuneration versus KRW12 billion (U$1.1 million) on a total of three R&D projects.

To date, the SNU administration has categorically dismissed repeated requests by students and activists to disclose the rationale behind Mr. Hwang’s appointment.  The university’s personnel committee is scheduled to meet on Jan. 17 to finalize its decision on Mr. Hwang’s hiring.

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On March 6th, 2012, a Memorial Day was held in Seoul for deceased Samsung worker Hwang Yumi and all the other occupational deaths in Semiconductor/Electronics Industry…

Father of Hwang Yumi, a Samsung worker who died of leukemia five years ago. He was one of the first to realize the problem of occupational cancers and illnesses among Samsung workers and challenge Samsung to take responsiblity

You can see the original and more photos of SHARPs’ activities at their website here:


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