Samsung issues apology for factory cancer cases

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Samsung Electronics has apologised for the sickness and deaths suffered by some of its workers.

The South Korean technology giant said it failed to create a safe working environment at its computer chip and display factories.

The announcement came weeks after the company and a group representing ailing Samsung workers agreed to accept compensation terms suggested by a mediator and end a highly-publicised standoff that went on for more than a decade.

Kinam Kim, president of Samsung’s device solutions division, said the company failed to “sufficiently manage health threats” at its semiconductor and liquid crystal display manufacturing lines.

South Korea Samsung Sick Workers
Hwang Sang-gi, right, father of former Samsung semiconductor factory worker Hwang Yu-mi who died from leukemia in 2007, shakes hands with Kinam Kim (Lee Jin-Man/AP)

“We offer our sincere apology to our workers who have suffered with illnesses and their families,” Mr Kim said during a news conference in Seoul, which was also attended by activists and relatives of the workers.

The standoff began in 2007 when taxi driver Hwang Sang-gi refused to accept a settlement after his 23-year-old daughter died of leukaemia after working at a Samsung factory.

Mr Hwang’s efforts to clarify the cause of her death and hold Samsung responsible for problems related to working conditions galvanised a broader movement to hold businesses and the government accountable for safety lapses in the chip and display industries, which use huge amounts of chemicals.

“No apology would be enough when considering the deception and humiliation we experienced (from Samsung) over the past 11 years, the pain of suffering from occupational diseases, the pain of losing loved ones,” Mr Hwang said at the news conference.

“But I take today’s apology as a promise from Samsung Electronics,” to improve the safety of its workplaces, he said.

According to the settlement, Samsung will compensate for various illnesses of employees who have worked at its chip and LCD factories since 1984, including as much as 150 million won (£100,000) for leukaemia.

The compensation also covers miscarriages and congenital illnesses of the workers’ children such as child cancer.

But while cutting a deal to end the standoff and loosely admitting to lapses in safety standards, Samsung has yet to fully acknowledge its workplace environment as the direct cause of the illnesses.

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