Samsung Electronics apologises over factory worker cancer cases

Company’s apology follows a 10-year battle by families of workers who developed severe diseases, including leukaemia.

Samsung Korea
An estimated 320 Samsung staffers developed work-related illnesses with 118 of them dying [File: Christian Mang/Reuters]

Samsung Electronics has apologised to the workers who developed cancer after working at its semiconductor factories, bringing to an end a decade-long dispute at the world’s top chip-maker.

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

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

“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 South Korea’s economy.

Under a deal announced earlier this month, the company will pay compensation of as much as 150 million won ($133,000) in each case.

WATCH: Report – Samsung endangered workers’ health in South Korea (2:39)

The agreement, which applies to anyone who worked at Samsung Electronics plants as far back as 1984, covers 16 types of cancer, some other rare illnesses, miscarriages and congenital diseases suffered by the workers’ children.

The Samsung group has played a major role in the economic development of South Korea, which is now the world’s 11th biggest economy.

But the company has also faced accusations of murky political connections and corruption.

10-year battle

The health scandal emerged in 2007 when former workers at Samsung’s semiconductor and display factories in Suwon, south of Seoul, and their families said staff had been diagnosed with various forms of cancer and some had died.

A series of rulings and decisions by courts, Seoul’s state labour welfare agency and a mediation committee followed over a period of 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.”

Source: AFP