November 23, 2018 // 10:57 a.m.
Samsung Electronics has formally apologised for the deaths and illnesses of workers at its manufacturing facilities, accepting that it has failed in its duty to 'sufficiently manage health threats'.
Samsung, one of the biggest family-run conglomerates - or chaebols - in South Korea, has spent the last decade fighting with current and former workers who claim that the company has knowingly exposed its staff to unsafe working conditions, including exposure to hazardous chemicals known to cause cancer - triggered by a 2007 lawsuit against the company by Hwang Sang-gi, who refused to accept the company's settlement offer following the death of his 23-year-old daughter from leukaemia he alleged was caused by her work at a Samsung factory. This long-running and systemic issue comes on top of one-off occurrences of serious injury and death at the company's facilities, including a fatal carbon dioxide leak earlier this year, and was settled earlier this month with Samsung agreeing compensation for its workers.
That settlement, it seems, includes public acknowledgement of the issue: Phys.org quotes the Associated Press report confirming that Samsung device solutions division president Kinam Kim was trotted out in front of local press at an event last night to deliver an apology on behalf of the company, admitting that it had failed in its duty to 'sufficiently manage health threats' at its facilities and to 'offer our sincere apology to our workers who have suffered with illnesses and their families'.
The company has confirmed it will offer compensation to workers at its manufacturing facilities who have illnesses, including cancer, miscarriages, and birth defects, which have been linked to the factory work going back to 1984. The company has also confirmed it will work to improve worker safety but has not offered details as to how exactly it plans to do that.
The company's apology appears to go further than the one it issued in 2014 on the same matter, in which vice chair Kwon Oh-hyun vocalised 'regret that a solution for this delicate matter has not been found in a timely manner', but expressly denied any link between the chemicals in use at its factory and the cancers and other illnesses suffered by its workers. It remains to be seen, however, if it goes far enough for those Samsung has fought against for more than a decade.