Samsung Electronics CEO and vice chairman Kwon Oh-hyun met with leukemia patients and delivered consolation on Jan. 14. The Korean IT giant also handed a written apology to family members of former workers who suffered deadly diseases including leukemia and various cancers on the same day, claiming that the eight-year-long dispute has come to an end.
In the meeting with the families of the leukemia victims at the head office in Seoul on the day, CEO Kwon said “We appreciate your understanding and efforts to solve the issues.” In the letter given to the families, he wrote that the company fell short of making swift actions to solve the leukemia issues.
The official apology by the company chief came just after a partial settlement was reached among the firm, a group of victims’ families and advocacy group Banolim on Jan. 12. Samsung said the three parties also agree to set up an independent body that monitors the working conditions of the firm’s semiconductor and display production lines as part of efforts to better prevent the deadly diseases.
Samsung Electronics pledged last year to create a fund worth 100 billion won (US$82.6 million) for compensation and research of work-related diseases. Among the 221 workers who suffered the fatal diseases, 76 had died by this month. And as of now, more than 100 victims among 150 applicants have received compensation from the firm since last Sept.
The leukemia controversy over Samsung's responsibility became public in 2007 after Hwang Yu-mi, a former employee at Samsung's chip-making facility in Suwon city, south of Seoul, died of leukemia.
Her father and other family members of victims of leukemia, cancer and other diseases who worked at Samsung, along with human rights lawyers and labor activists, have held protests against Samsung Electronics, demanding setup of preventive measures, compensation and apology.
The IT giant said in a statement released after the meeting on the day all the three issues related to the leukemia dispute have been solved. The advocacy group for the victims called Banolim or the Protector of Health and Human Rights of Semiconductor Workers, however, said Samsung's remarks were prima facie lies and deceptions.
The advocacy group claims the agreements on compensation and apology have been never reached in transparency, adding that the company also does not acknowledge the relation between the working conditions and the outbreak of diseases. Samsung, however, said it is scientifically complicated to verify such a relation.
The group has been demonstrating at the front of the Samsung Group headquarters since October of last year.