We are writing to express our grave concern and grief over the death of Lee Yunjeong, a young Samsung worker who lost her life on 7th May due to malignant brain cancer. To our great anguish, this is already the 55th death of Samsung workers. Ms. Lee Yunjeong worked in Samsung semiconductor Assembly & Test factory in Onyang, consistently exposed to toxic chemicals for six years during her employment from 1997 to 2003. In 2010, she was diagnosed of brain cancer.
As a regional labour rights network consisting of civil society groups and labour unions in various Asian countries, The Asian Transnational Corporation Monitoring Network (ATNC) severely condemns Samsung for causing death to dozens of workers. Until now, Samsung remains adamant in denying its full responsibility and unwilling to pay due compensation to all the deceased workers. To our outrage, we strongly demand Samsung and the Korean government to be accountable for the death of the workers.
Lee Yunjeong had applied for the Workers’ Compensation to the Government, which is one of the social insurance benefits of Korea. However, the Korean Government refused to compensate her based on grounds that she could not prove which toxic chemicals she had been exposed to. Lee raised lawsuit against the Government’s decision in 2011, but could not survive long enough to see the result of the lawsuit. To our utmost anger, Samsung persistently refused its responsibility for paying full compensation to the former employees plagued by occupational diseases.
What’s worse, the Korean government acted in complicity with Samsung and joined its efforts to silence the growing evidence of a cancer cluster among electronics manufacturing workers at Samsung who have been exposed to toxic chemicals. On 2nd April, there was a funeral ceremony for Park Ji-yeon, followed by a press conference at Samsung headquarters in Seoul to demand accountability from the company. The press conference was unfortunately cracked down by the police who then arrested seven of the activists shouting aloud of “Samsung, You are responsible for the death of Ji-Yeon Park!” They were detailed for two days before release.
The problem of occupational disease is not confined to Samsung or Korea. This is an industry-wide issue because many electronics companies create unsafe or even hazardous workplaces in the countries they operate. A series of recent investigations in the US, UK, Taiwan and elsewhere have highlighted an elevated cancer risk in workers in the semiconductor industry. For far too long, electronics industry executives have continued to deny responsibility and have treated chemical exposure and the resulting cancer deaths as simply the cost of doing business.