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Head of Lotte Corp. summoned over toxic humidifier sterilizer probe

All News 15:16 June 02, 2016

SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) -- The chief of retail giant Lotte Group's construction arm, who formerly headed Lotte Mart, was summoned Thursday to face questions over the toxic humidifier sterilizers which resulted in numerous deaths and illnesses here.

Noh Byung-yong appeared before the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in southern Seoul as a suspect in the snowballing case that involves scores of deaths since 2011, including some pregnant women.

"I feel very pitiful and sorry about the victims and families who suffered damages due to Lotte products," the 64-year-old told reporters before entering the office, adding he will fully cooperate with the investigation.

The humidifier disinfectant case, one of the worst scandals involving a consumer product using chemicals, came to light after four pregnant women died of lung problems from unknown causes in 2011. A government-led investigation confirmed a connection between people who died of lung problems and the chemicals used to clean household humidifiers.

South Korea confirmed 221 people as victims. Among them, 41 had used Lotte products. Out of 90 deaths, 16 are believed to have been caused by products made by Lotte.

Noh made key decisions as Lotte Mart's director of sales since 2004 and was promoted to the chief of the company in 2010. The company started selling the toxic sterilizer in 2004.

Prosecutors said they grilled Noh on why the company released the product without going through due health risk checks.

Lotte Mart has been claiming that the local unit of the American private brand (PB) consulting firm Daymon was in charge of the entire process, including the safety inspections.

Still, prosecutors said it is difficult for Lotte officials to avoid the responsibility.

Other officials from another discount chain Homeplus, who also produced the problematic disinfectants and sold them from 2006, were also summoned earlier in the day.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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