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(LEAD) Samsung promises compensation for victims of illnesses at its chip plant

All Headlines 11:49 May 14, 2014

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; ADDS details throughout)
By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, May 14 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co. officially apologized and promised compensation Wednesday over the deaths and suffering of its semiconductor workers from illnesses that family members claim are work-related.

"Several workers at our production facilities suffered from leukemia and other incurable diseases, which also led to some deaths," Kwon Oh-hyun, the CEO of the electronics giant, said in a statement read at a press conference.

"We should have settled the issue earlier, and we are deeply heartbroken that we failed to do so and express our deep apology," Kwon said in what was the company's first formal apology over the controversy.

"We hope to resolve the issue with sincerity and earnestness," he said. "We will make due compensation to the victims and the families."

Kwon said Samsung will establish a third party to settle the issue with fairness and objectivity with consent from the victims and the families, and will follow the compensation guidelines determined by it.

The announcement came a month after a dispute with family members and their advocates over how they would conduct their talks aimed at explaining the illnesses and deaths of semiconductor workers at Samsung plants.

Earlier in April, minor opposition legislator Rep. Sim Sang-jung, joining with the victims and their families, urged Samsung to take responsibility and make compensation.

Samsung, which has yet to acknowledge any correlation between the illnesses and deaths and factory working conditions, had said at the time that it would review the proposal by Sim and the families in a sincere manner. The process later was hampered by whether a third party should be brought in to mediate the negotiations.

Kwon said Samsung wants Sim to give her opinions on settling the issue.

Samsung said it will have an agency with expertise and independence conduct health and safety inspections of the chip plants and take appropriate steps against recurrence of the illnesses based on the results of its findings.

Samsung also refused to comment on another dispute which involves the company asking the Protector of Health and Human Rights of Semiconductor Workers, or SHARP, an activist group whose members include the victims' families, to obtain a power of attorney from all related victims in order to make itself a legitimate negotiation party.

Controversy over the cause of and responsibility for the workers' illnesses has been growing since Hwang Yu-mi, a former employee at Samsung's chip-making facilities in Giheung, just south of Seoul, died from leukemia in 2007. Family members say the death was caused by exposure to lethal chemicals at the factory.


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