Samsung Forms Watchdog to Inspect Factories Linked to Cancer

  • Committee to release reports on areas for improvement
  • Electronics giant promised to compensate workers, families

Samsung Electronics Co. said Tuesday it will set up an independent committee to inspect its facilities, the company’s latest concession after reports that scores of workers developed rare cancers and other illnesses at semiconductor factories.

The South Korean company, victims of leukemia and other work-related diseases, and a local civic group formally agreed to establish an ombudsman committee that will monitor and report on working conditions. The concession came after Samsung announced a 100 billion-won ($83 million) fund in July to compensate victims and fund preventive measures.

“We are grateful to the related parties for their collaborative partnership on finding a solution,” Samsung said in a statement. “Samsung will faithfully implement proposed improvements from the Ombudsman Committee and remains fully committed to providing a safe and healthy working environment for our valued employees.”

In an abrupt about-face, Samsung issued a public apology last year to workers who said they contracted rare cancers linked to chemicals at its semiconductor plants and to the surviving family members it battled in South Korea’s courts during a struggle that stretched nine years. Samsung is one of the world’s biggest chip makers, supplying its own devices and those made by competitors, including Apple Inc.

More Lawsuits

“Samsung should help this committee to operate independently, in a very transparent way and should open up any core information whenever it’s needed,” said Lee Ji Soo, an attorney at Law & Business Research Center. “If similar things happen in a country that has higher bars on workers’ rights or advanced legal protection tools, it could continue to haunt Samsung.”

Samsung has in the past denied links between some of the reported diseases, including leukemia, and potential carcinogens used in its plants. In a handful of cases, South Korean courts and the government’s worker-compensation board formally connected cancers or precancerous blood conditions to semiconductor work for Samsung, especially at its oldest and once-biggest production facility.

The company said Tuesday it is committed to compensating workers and their families. Samsung has received more than 150 applications since starting its fund, and more than 100 victims and the families have accepted the company’s financial support.

Samsung shares finished Tuesday 0.5 percent lower at 1.15 million won in Seoul, after posting a third straight annual decline last year.

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