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2015-11-10 16:59
By Kim Yoo-chul

There is growing call for Banolim, a local advocacy group representing families of Samsung employees who contracted incurable diseases or died, to get back to basics.

Samsung Electronics said more than 100 affected former employees who contracted incurable diseases at the company’s semiconductor and display lines applied for compensation and it has compensated 48 who agreed to early settlements.

Samsung believes there’s no direct link between its now-advanced manufacturing plants and the high level of leukemia in its workers. But it told The Korea Times that the company will never stop providing financial aid to them regardless of any correlation between the workplace environment and worker illness.

“This is because of Samsung’s willingness to respect our former workers for their sincere devotion to the company,” said a company spokesperson. “In the wider picture, Samsung included former employees whose requests for occupational disease status were rejected by local courts.”

Samsung said it has been waiting for more official requests for early compensation, but such company efforts were undermined as the local advocacy group has carried on its anti-Samsung demonstrations for more than a month in front of the electronics giant’s main office in Seocho, southern Seoul.

Banolim claimed Samsung is trying to hide the truth and urged the company to take more responsibility for the illnesses; however, the advocacy group managed to derail a three-member mediation committee that had previously agreed to find a resolution.

Banolim said the number of workers who’ve developed leukemia and other diseases has reached 200; however, it refused to provide more details or present evidence to back up its claims.

More importantly, Banolim has been consistent in asking Samsung Electronics to establish a public foundation with the company paying operating costs totaling 100 billion won.

“According to its claim, Samsung’s role in the foundation will be zero,” said one official. “Also, Banolim wants regular inspections and monitoring of the company’s key semiconductor lines, conditions which Samsung doesn’t have to accept as the company isn’t a state-owned firm. These are going too far. There have been doubts that Banolim has the will to resolve the issue.”

Meanwhile, Banolim’s pressure for Samsung to pay 0.05 percent of its annual net profit every year “doesn’t make sense” as Banolim has no legal authority to ask a private company to collect money without clear evidence showing correlation between the workplaces and worker illnesses.

“If Banolim wants to inspect Samsung factories, then they need to provide the needed money,” said another official. “Banolim asks Samsung to pay millions of dollars and they want to control all.”

The advocacy group may have been impressed by recent findings from Baskut Tuncak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, who apparently favored their stance.

No matter what the situation, Korea is losing its luster in manufacturing industries from car, steel and shipbuilding to semiconductors.

Chinese rivals are quickly catching up with Samsung in semiconductors, in which Korea has long dominated the market.

That means if Samsung falls under the hands of rivals, then Korea may suffer serious economic trouble, as the chip business is one of the backbones of the local economy.

“Here’s a solution,” said a source. “I ask Banolim to agree with Samsung on the early settlements. If a correlation is proven, then the interested parties may renegotiate terms of details for the next step toward a resolution.”


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