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Leukemia Victims Suffering from Samsung's "Unseen Violence"
By Park Hyo-jae
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A testimony forum was held on Thursday, July 26 at the Korean National Assembly, inviting the victims who caught leukemia or cancer while working at the manufacturing factories of Samsung Electronics.

The event was organized by United Progressive Party (UPP) Floor Leader Shim Sang-jung and other UPP lawmakers with a view to giving more publicity to the serious nature of this situation and finding some countermeasures to deal with it among the lawmakers. This is the first time that any event has been held to discuss it in the National Assembly.

The victims and families on the stand said that the fight against Samsung was arduous: there was a series of continued cajoling and coercing attempts against the victims and families who were trying to get acknowledgement of workplace disaster, to say nothing of proper compensation for damage.

The families remarked that they were even more hurt by Samsung's "unseen violence."

Shim Sang-jung, a UPP lawmaker hosted a testimony forum by leukemia and other work-related disease victims by Samsung on July 26 at the National Assembly. Kim Si-nyeo, mother of a victim Han Hye-kyung, is holding back tears during her testimony. / Kang Yoon-jung



Hwang Sang-ki, 57, whose daughter Hwang Yoo-mi died, was the first person to make the real conditions the victims of workplace related diseases at Samsung five years ago and he took a walk through his painful memory lane.

In mid-October 2006, when his leukemia-stricken daughter was still in a recovery status after a bone marrow transplant surgery, two Samsung employees visited him. On the surface, they acted as if the visit was to get a resignation as Yoo-mi's leave period expired.

Hwang said, "When I told them I was going to file for an industrial disaster review, a man, he called himself a manager, said, ‘Do you think you can win against this big company?' and told me to give up." By then, his daughter's treatment had already cost him more than 80 million won.

These employees proposed 30 million won as compensation. Hwang, struggling under aggravating financial conditions in his family, decided to receive the money but made them promise that he would receive any future treatment expenses in the event of recurrence, as well as the shortfall in the compensation they offered.

Yet when his daughter's leukemia relapsed, they changed words. According to the father, Samsung employees came to him and offered 5 million won for settlement.

Hwang also insisted that the epidemiological research conducted was a sham. The research was done by Korea Industrial Corporation (KISCO) on September 1, 2007 at Samsung Electronics Gi-hung Plant where his daughter used to work.

He had already submitted a request for workplace disaster benefit to Korea Worker's Welfare and Compensation Service (COMWEL). Hwang was exasperated that after KISCO research, a Samsung employee dared to tell him, "Do not meet people outside as you will make matters more complicated for nothing."

When COMWEL rejected to pay benefits in 2009, Hwang filed an administrative litigation together with other leukemia victims and families. Even though the court ordered compensation in favor of the victims and families, a lawsuit is still going on as COMWEL appealed against the court decision.

Han Hye-kyung, 34 is another victim. At 19, she joined Samsung Electronics LCD Plant in Gi-hung in 1996 and continued working until 2001, when she had to quit due to her failing health (her menstruation had stopped, for example).

In 2005, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the cerebellum. While having a surgery to get rid of the tumor, her motor nerves were damaged and she became disabled, assessed to be the 1st grade by the government's standards for walking disability, vision impairment and language disability.

Since most of her body functions are damaged, it is impossible for Han to manage her daily living without help from her mother, Kim Si-nyeo, 56.

Kim said that it was hard enough to watch her daughter in that condition; but that it was even harder when Samsung tried to stop her from requesting an official compensation from KISCO and privately offer money.

The mother in pain said, "[Someone from] Samsung called me last year or the year before and told me that they would pay me the compensation if I would stop all the contacts with non-profit civic organizations. But I refused."

She continued that Samsung did not give up and said, "We settled the matter with other families. Will 40-50 million be good enough for you?" She felt so humiliated that she hung up the phone.

The victims and families urged that Samsung should fulfill its social responsibility when the company's goal is to become the world best.

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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