Samsung agrees compensation over chip worker illnesses

November 05, 2018 // By Peter Clarke
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has agreed to pay compensation of up to 150 million won (about US$132,000) per illness over alleged work-related illnesses and deaths in semiconductor manufacturing that date back more than a decade.

The company will also donate 50 billion won (about $45 million) to public organizations to help improve workers' safety and health. All the present and former workers of Samsung and its subcontractors, who served on chip and LCD production lines in Giheung, south of Seoul, since 1984 will be eligible to apply for compensation.

The dispute has been driven in part by the tenacity of Sang-gi Hwang, father of Yu-mi Hwang, a worker at a Samsung semiconductor factory in Giheung, south of Seoul, who died from acute myeloid leukemia aged 22 on March 6, 2007, just four years after starting work there. A cluster of illnesses was noticed at the time and it was alleged that chemical exposure at work was the cause, something Samsung has denied. Yu-mi Hwang had worked cleaning wafers with solvents on an unautomated production line.

Back in July Samsung agreed to abide by the decision of a mediator to resolve its dispute with a lobbying group – Supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS) – that has represented the interests the families of many Samsung workers afflicted by illnesses.

In June 2018 SHARPS claimed that there were 320 victims who suffered from work-related illnesses after being employed by Samsung, with 118 of them having already passed away.

Lobbying groups got behind Sang-gi Hwang in 2010 and launched the "Samsung Accountability Campaign." Subsequently a court in Seoul, South Korea, ordered Samsung pay compensation in 2011, although the company continued to deny responsibility.

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