Samsung Electronics

After 10-year battle, Samsung apologises to workers who developed cancer, rare diseases from working at semiconductor factories

  • Campaign groups say 320 people suffered work-related illnesses, including 16 types of cancer, as a result of working at the factory
  • Electronics firm to pay compensation of US$133,000 per case
PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 10:14am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 10:19pm

Samsung Electronics apologised on Friday to workers who developed cancer after working at its semiconductor factories, finally ending a decade-long dispute at the world’s top chip maker.

“We sincerely apologise to the workers who suffered from illness and their families,” said the firm’s co-president Kim Ki-nam.

“We have failed to properly manage health risks at our semiconductor and LCD factories.”

Samsung Electronics is the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer and chip maker and the flagship subsidiary of the Samsung Group, by far the biggest of the family controlled conglomerates that dominate the South’s economy.

It has played a key part in the South’s rise to become the world’s 11th-largest economy, but has also faced accusations of murky political connections.

Its de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was found guilty of bribing former president Park Geun-hye as part of the corruption scandal that brought her down and spent almost a year in prison before most of his convictions were overturned on appeal and he was released.

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Campaign groups say that 320 people have suffered from work-related illnesses after being employed by Samsung Electronics, with 118 of them dying.

Under a deal announced earlier this month, the firm will pay compensation of up to 150 million won (US$133,000) per case.

It covers 16 types of cancer, some other rare illnesses, miscarriages and congenital diseases suffered by the workers’ children. Claimants can have worked at plants as far back as 1984.

The scandal emerged in 2007 when former workers at its semiconductor and display factories in Suwon, south of Seoul, and their families said that staff had been diagnosed or died of various forms of cancer.

No amount of apology will be enough to heal all the insults
Hwang Sang-gi

A series of rulings and decisions by courts, Seoul’s state labour welfare agency and a mediation committee followed over more than 10 years, culminating in Friday’s announcement.

Relatives’ leader Hwang Sang-gi, whose 22-year-old daughter died of leukaemia in 2007, told reporters he was glad he could now keep the promises he made her.

But he went on: “The apology honestly was not enough for the families of the victims but we will accept it.

“No amount of apology will be enough to heal all the insults, the pain of industrial injuries and the suffering of losing one’s family.

“I cannot forget the pain she and our family went through. Too many people have suffered the same fate.”