By Kelly Olsen
The Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Samsung plans to soon release the results of an independent probe into health and safety conditions at its South Korean semiconductor factories after employee illnesses and deaths raised fears of cancer risks.
The release would take place “in coming weeks,” the company said in a statement Thursday. Company spokesman Nam Ki-yung said it would be sometime in July.
Samsung Electronics Co. commissioned an investigation by occupational health and safety experts last July, after more than 20 of its chip plant workers were diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma since 1998. A total of 10 died.
The announcement of the release came after a South Korean court ruled Thursday that the leukemia deaths of two women were linked to working at a Samsung semiconductor factory.
The Seoul Administrative Court ordered the Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service to compensate the two women’s families, Yonhap news agency and other South Korean media reported.
Yonhap quoted a panel of three judges as saying the exact cause of the deaths has not been determined, but it could be presumed the two women were exposed to toxic chemicals and radiation on the job.
The court and the service could not be reached for confirmation late Thursday.
Baak Young-mann, an attorney for the women’s families, and Kong Jeong-ok, a member of a support group, however, confirmed the report. Samsung’s statement also confirmed the court ruled against the service in the cases of the two women.
The families had sued the service, not Samsung, after the agency refused to pay compensation following an investigation by occupational safety authorities that did not find work-related causes for the cancers.
Last Thursday’s ruling, however, upheld the service’s findings regarding cancer cases of three other workers, two of whom are alive.
Baak said his team of attorneys would appeal the rulings for those three. He also said the service was likely to appeal the ruling against it in the case of the two women.
With an apparent eye on the appeals process, Samsung said it is committed to showing that its facilities pose no danger to workers.
“With the final ruling still pending, Samsung will do its best to help establish that our working environment is safe and clarify any remaining doubts,” the company’s statement said.
“The health and well-being of our employees is and will remain the top priority for Samsung,” it said. ♦