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Samsung Workers Speak Out

Cell phones are a main method of communication for most of us. We use them everyday with little thought about how they were made or where they came from. Many of the parts of our cell phones have been assembled in facilities that are often found overseas to reduce costs.

A semiconductor facility in South Korea, which is a plant where devices such as integrated circuits are manufactured, has been abuzz, after former and current employees brought worker compensations cases against Samsung. Investigators have documented more than 200 cases of different serious illnesses. These illnesses include lupus, lymphoma, and leukemia.

Banolim, an organization working with these former employees, is bringing their cases to light after finding out that people were getting sick and dying due to chemicals used in the factory. These same chemicals have been banned in the US for 25 years.

Park Min-Sook, a former Samsung chip worker and breast cancer survivor, told Aljazeera News “In a situation where people’s lives are at stake, [Samsung] brought uninformed kids from the countryside and acted like money is everything, using them as if they were disposable cups.”

Samsung even offered a former Samsung factory employee $914,000 if he would remain silent. Hwang Yu-mi was only 22 years old when he died of leukemia. Hwang Sang-ki, the former employees father, said, “The idea was to deny her illness was an occupational disease and to leave me without any power to fight back.”

According to Bloomberg News, the group was founded in support of Hwang Sang-ki and has “helped researchers document cancer cases across the industry. Its representatives also are now working with women on reproductive health claims.”

Bloomsburg News also notes, “That’s when Kim Mi-yeon was recognized as the first semiconductor worker to suffer occupational illness related to reproductive health.” Kim Mi-yeon worked for Samsung for over 15 years, and later suffered from infertility and uterine cancer.

 In 2016, Samsung released a statement on its website about employee health and safety at a semiconductor facilities stating that their chemical management system is “rigorous” and “state of the art.” They also state, “In addition to being the first to develop and implement real-time, 24/7 chemical monitoring in 2007 [the same year inquires were made into Yu-mi’s death], we operate highly effective filtration and ventilation systems at all times in our semiconductor fabrication facilities, and these systems are capable of eliminating any potentially dangerous chemicals in real-time. Therefore, the cleanliness of the air within our facilities is equivalent to or better than that we breathe in our general surroundings.”

Hopefully, Samsung and other cell phone manufacturers will stop putting their employees’ health at risk. Park Min-Soo, Hwang Yu-mi, and Kim Mi-yeon deserve justice, and we all should be more aware about the chemicals that go into the creation of our cell phones.

Featured Image by Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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