This time last year, Samsung Electronics admitted to poor safety practices at their semiconductor production lines. The company apologized to factory workers who were diagnosed with leukemia and other serious illnesses and set up to $132,549.45 aside for each former and current employee suffering from work-related diseases.
Mismanaged Health Risks
During his apology in Seoul, South Korea, CEO Kinam Kim bowed and stated the following:
“Beloved colleagues and families have suffered for a long time, but Samsung Electronics failed to take care of the matter earlier. Samsung Electronics also did not fully and completely manage potential health risks at our chip and liquid-crystal display production lines.”
According to the activist group Sharps (Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry), working at Samsung factories exposed workers to dangerous toxic chemicals. Many workers became sick and died in the course of their employment with the company.
As of June 2018, about 319 Samsung employees were afflicted by occupational illnesses. At least 117 of them had succumbed to their ailments. Sharp Founder Hwang Sang-gi lead the charge against Samsung after his daughter contracted leukemia and died while working at a Samsung factory.
Hwang’s daughter was not the only casualty. Multiple workers developed cancer, brain tumors, and other illnesses during their time at Samsung. Parents at the company “had miscarriages, or children with congenital diseases.”
Kim’s promises addressed all those afflicted, but Hwang does not believe it’s sufficient:
“No apology would be enough when considering the deception and humiliation we experienced over the past 11 years, the pain of suffering from occupational diseases, the pain of losing loved ones.”
While Hwang sees Samsung’s apology as a vow to improve safety conditions, he knows Kim’s statement is inadequate.
Anticipated Difficulties in Claiming Compensation
NPR Correspondent Anthony Kuhn points out:
“Kim stopped short… of admitting that the workplace was the direct cause of the workers’ illnesses.”
Kim’s statement also specified that those who claim damages will need to prove that their diseases were caused by exposure to harmful chemicals at work. While compensation is available for all employees who worked at Samsung factories between 1984 and 2018 and has been promised by 2028, the road for afflicted workers may be long and legally treacherous.
The proceedings will happen overseas, and compensation will be administered by a South Korean law firm.