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Samsung apologises over sicknesses, deaths of some workers

  • 23 Nov 2018

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

Samsung Electronics co-president Kim Ki-nam bows as he makes a formal apology for victims of work-related diseases of its semiconductor and LCD factories in Seoul on November 23, 2018. ( AFP )

Samsung Electronics on Friday apologised for the sickness and deaths of some of its workers, saying it failed to create a safe working environment at its computer chip and display factories.

The company's apology was part of the settlement reached with a group representing ailing Samsung workers.

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. Dozens of employees who worked there have experienced grave illnesses such as leukaemia and brain tumour.

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

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

Hwang's efforts to clarify the cause of Yu-mi's death and hold Samsung accountable 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," 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 $132,000 for leukaemia. 

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

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