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Semiconductor pollution Gihueng City Samsung plant, South Korea


Workplace health issues arose in 2007 related to the production of semiconductors at Samsung plant Deaths and a form of leukemia by former Samsung workers in semiconductor production. Also pollution from plant to local area has been alleged. Workers have been protesting for years and organized in "Supporters of Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry" SHARPS. An ongoing conflict since 2007 is mobilizing workers and their families. In May 2014 Samsung promised to compensate affected workers and their families, although do not admit a direct link to exposures at their plants and leukemia. "Some of Samsung's former employees have passed away after contracting leukemia or are coping with difficult-to-treat diseases after having worked at our manufacturing facility," a Samsung spokesperson said in a statement to CNET. "We could have been more diligent in addressing the hardship and sorrow of former employees and the families of the deceased... we will make due compensation for former employees battling illness and the families of the deceased."

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Semiconductor pollution Gihueng City Samsung plant, South Korea
Country:Republic of Korea
State or province:Gyeonggi
Location of conflict:Gihueng City
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Manufacturing activities
Specific commodities:E-waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Compensation by Samsung announced May 2014 - amount not specified.

Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:Samsung Electronics
Samsung Group from Republic of Korea
Relevant government actors:KComwell
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Supporters of Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry SHARPS
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
Local scientists/professionals
Workers in Samsung semiconductor plants
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Protests outside Samsung plants and company headquarters
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Air pollution, Soil contamination
Other Environmental impactsWorkplace contamination -air, waters
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Other Health impactsAccording to journalist Elizabeth Grossman: "Benzene and other volatile organic compounds used widely in semiconductor and other electronics manufacturing also include trichloroethylene (TCE) and methylene chloride, which are associated with cancer and nervous system damage and are also known to affect developing embryos."
"In 2007, a 22-year-old woman named Yu-mi Hwang, who had worked at Samsung’s Giheung semiconductor plant while still in high school, died of leukemia. A year later, a 30-year-old woman who shared a workstation with Yu-mi died, also of leukemia. In March 2010, a 23-year-old woman named Park Ji-Yeon, who had worked at Samsung’s On-Yang semiconductor plant since 2004, also died of leukemia, three years after her diagnosis. In 2005, a 27-year old woman named Han Hae-kyoung, who had worked in a Samsung LCD plant since 1995, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and is now seriously disabled. Another woman, Lee Yoon-jeong, who worked for Samsung in semiconductor production between 1997 and 2003, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2010 at age 30. As of March 2011, Korean labor and occupational health activists have counted 120 such cases of severe illnesses and 46 resulting fatalities among Samsung workers." [1]
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Under negotiation
Ongoing court cases
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Samsung has not applied any further safety measure in its factories.
Sources and Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Are Samsung Workers at Risk?
[click to view]

Huffington Post
[click to view]

The Guardian Newspaper, UK
[click to view]

CNET news
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

stop samsung – no more deaths!

International Campaign for Health and Labour Rights of Samsung Electronics Workers
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Louis Lemkow
Last update22/05/2014
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