In South Korea, most of the people lives with the acceptance that chaebols (conglomerates) can get away with something utilizing cash and affect. But in 2018, one thing occurred that modified this notion. Samsung, the largest conglomerate in South Korea, needed to pay out round ₩15.3 billion KRW (about $11.6 million USD) to compensate the households of its deceased employees after an 11-year-long battle that was began by Hwang Sang Ki.

Hwang Sang Ki | VICE Asia/YouTube

On March 6, 2007, Hwang Sang Ki witnessed his 23-year-old daughter Yumi die within the backseat of his taxi whereas driving her to the hospital for her most cancers therapy. Yumi had been working at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. in Suwan for 5 years till she obtained identified with acute myelogenous leukemia.

(left) Hwang Yumi with (proper) Hwang Sang Ki | VICE Asia/YouTube

Upon receiving her prognosis, Yumi’s father requested her what kind of labor she did at Samsung. To this, Yumi replied that her job on the semiconductor manufacturing unit was to coat the wafers in a number of chemical substances. Hwang Sang Ki realized that her sickness may very well be brought on by her work and tried to ask her firm for employee’s compensation. But he was repeatedly dismissed.

After Yumi’s dying, her father refused to signal a settlement, and the corporate allegedly cast paperwork to point out that Yumi was not working with chemical substances on the manufacturing unit in any respect. When he realized that one other 30-year-old employee on the identical manufacturing line as his daughter had additionally died of leukemia, he determined to push the difficulty much more.

Being a person with restricted sources, Hwang Sang Ki didn’t have any concept the place to begin his combat. He had already filed a compensation declare with the Korean Workers Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL). Eventually, he met labor activist and lawyer Lee Jong Ran and the 2 began a corporation referred to as Banolim, translated as Supporters for Health and Rights of People in Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS). With Banolim, the 2 activists began protests and petitions and gathered on severe sicknesses confronted by semiconductor employees.

Lee Jong Ran | VICE Asia/YouTube

Banolim noticed a heart-breaking defeat when KCOMWEL rejected their compensation declare. But Hwang Sang Ki and his individuals by no means stepped down. Finally, in 2011 the South Korean courts dominated in favor of the group’s claims (although partially).

(from left to proper) Lee Jong Ran, Hwang Sang Ki, officers of KCOMWEL | VICE Asia/YouTube

But as a substitute of paying out the compensation as per the court docket’s ruling, Samsung employed the consulting agency Environ to look at the situations of its semiconductor fabrication services. The audit concluded that there was no hyperlink between the manufacturing unit’s working situations and the employees’ sicknesses. Based on this report, Samsung refused to pay something to the bereaved households.

Despite KCOMWEL’s attraction, the courts stick with their determination to rule in favor of Banolim. Samsung ultimately determined to obey the ruling and arrange a fund of ₩100 billion KRW (about $76.3 million USD) for the aim. However, the corporate nonetheless denied any connection between its supplies and the intense illnesses suffered by its employees.

In October 2015, protestors, led by Hwang Sang Ki, organized a peaceable sit-in beneath the Samsung headquarters in Seoul, demanding the corporate change its compensation plan, as Banolim noticed it as an unacceptable providing in comparison with what the households had suffered. The protest went on for 1,000 days.

Hwang Sang Ki on the sit-in beside a papier-mâché determine of Hwang Yumi| VICE Asia/YouTube

Protestors beneath the Samsung headquarters

Finally, Samsung needed to give in. In 2018, a mediation passed off between the corporate and Banolim the place each events agreed that Samsung would pay ₩150 million KRW (about $114,000 USD) to every of its present and former employees if they’re discovered to have sicknesses attributable to work-related publicity to harmful substances.

Samsung president Kim Ki Nam apologized on the press convention |

The President and CEO of Samsung Device Solutions additionally issued a public apology stating that Samsung had not correctly protected its employees towards well being dangers and that the corporate had not responded to the problems in a well timed sufficient method. In a press convention following the mediation, Hwang Sang Ki acknowledged that greater than getting financial compensation, his aim was to make sure that these incidents have been prevented in any respect prices.

No apology could be sufficient when contemplating the deception and humiliation we skilled over the previous 11 years, the ache of affected by occupational ailments, the ache of dropping family members

Hwang Sang Ki

Though Banolim succeeded in its authorized and ethical pursuit, Samsung obtained away just about scot-free. The compensation it paid to the households didn’t even make a dent in its funds because the identical yr, the corporate posted a revenue of ₩59.3 trillion KRW (about $45.2 billion USD).


In South Korea, chaebols usually get pleasure from immunity from the regulation because the nation is so closely depending on them to maintain its financial system rising. The story of a person like Hwang Sang Ki speaks of braveness as a lot because it does of horrors in such a social system. To date, Samsung has refused to disclose the precise chemical substances and the quantities utilized in its manufacturing, stating that it’s a commerce secret. But no less than now, South Korean employees have a hopeful instance that even an enormous like Samsung may be introduced down, albeit after years of back-breaking combat.

Source: DW, CBS and VICE Asia

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