These Women Are Paying the Price for Our Digital World

Workers in Asian factories might still be exposed to chemicals banned in the U.S. 25 years ago. Photographs by Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek.
Bloomberg News

These are some of the women of Banolim, an organization that has worked with current and former semiconductor workers in South Korea, helping dozens of them bring workers’ compensation cases and, where necessary, challenge the rejections of their claims. The group was founded in support of Hwang Sang-ki, a taxi driver who challenged Samsung after his daughter and a co-worker at a Samsung plant died of a rare and aggressive form of leukemia in 2007. Banolim has helped researchers document cancer cases across the industry. Its representatives also are now working with women on reproductive health claims, an area that’s likely to grow in the wake of a government decision in March. That’s when Kim Mi-yeon was recognized as the first semiconductor worker to suffer occupational illness related to reproductive health. 

Park Min-sook at home with her daughter Ju-hyun in Danyang, South Korea. Park, 44, worked at a Samsung semiconductor factory for seven years. She later suffered from breast cancer, infertility, and a miscarriage.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek

Park Min-sook’s personal pictures from the semiconductor factory.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek

Rejected wafers from Samsung. Park Min-sook brought these home in the 1990s. “I don’t even want to touch them,” she says.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek

Kim Shinyeo helps her daughter Han Hye-kyung out of the car at a rehabilitation center. Han, 39, worked in a Samsung LCD factory; she has a brain tumor that impairs her speech, vision, and mobility.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek

Han Hye-kyung undergoes physical therapy at Chuncheon Geriatric Hospital.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek

Han Hye-kyung is helped into a wheelchair by her mother after spending the night at a protest site outside Samsung headquarters in Seoul. To the right is Hwang Sang-ki, father of Hwang Yu-mi, a former Samsung worker who died of leukemia in 2007.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek

Han Hye-kyung and Kim Shinyeo at home in Chuncheon.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek

Kim Mi-yeon puts her daughter Yubin down for an afternoon nap at their home in Suwon, which is nicknamed Samsung City because of the number of the company’s factories there. Kim, 38, worked at Samsung for 15 years, and later suffered from infertility and uterine cancer. In March she was recognized as the first semiconductor worker to suffer occupational illness related to reproductive health.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek

Han Hye-kyung sleeps after spending the night at a protest site outside Samsung headquarters in Seoul.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek

A shrine for Hwang Yu-mi at the protest site outside Samsung headquarters in Seoul.

Photographer: Anastasia Taylor-Lind for Bloomberg Businessweek