[Statement] Another methanol poisoning accidents identified in the SAMSUNG supply chain

#Methanol_poisoning #Samsung #subacontract_labor #Solidarity_for_Workers_Health
8 methanol poisoning accidents identified during last 2 years.
Who is responsible and who can make them responsible?

SEOUL, South Korea, October 17, 2016 – According to Solidarity for Workers` Health (here in after SWH), two more occupational accidents related to methanol poisoning were recently reported in the SAMSUNG Electronics’ supply chain.
A 29-year-old male worker surnamed Kim who was dispatched to DuckyongENG, a subcontractor for SAMSUNG, showed signs of blindness on February 24, 2015. Also, on January 16, 2016, another 35-year-old male worker surnamed Cheon working for BKTech, which is also a subcontractor for SAMSUNG, showed the symptoms of blindness on the way back home from work. He was taken to a nearby hospital on the following day, however he lost his sight in his right eye, and most vision in his left eye. Both of the victims have only recently realized that their accidents are deeply concerned with the methanol poisoning, thus decided to report their cases to SWH.
Methanol can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, sight loss and even death. Ethanol is recommended over methanol because it is less toxic, but ethanol costs three times more.
Both of the workers were responsible for the process related to CNC equipment. The CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) machine is a tool capable of processing and scaling metal materials to a previously input value. The CNC equipment used by the victims is a cutting tool that cuts according to previously input levels. The machine maintains refined control while carving aluminum metal, thus, was used to produce a large amount of mobile phone parts.
Both of the victims worked in the process of producing mobile phone parts using the aforementioned CNC equipment; methanol was used as cutting oil in this machinery. The cutting oil was used when cutting metal materials, to have the blade cooled and lubricated so as to remain clean and, thus, extend the life of the machine overall. The CNC equipment used by the victims had a hose that automatically sprayed the cutting oil to the blade. As a result, a high concentration (99.9%) of methanol was continuously sprayed while the machine was in operation.
There remains “high possibility” of the existence of
unidentified victims.
Including these newly reported 2 cases aforementioned, up to date a total of 8 methanol poisoning accidents which were concerned with CNC process in the electronic industry supply chain have been identified to the public. All of these accidents occurred during the past two years. According to industrial health doctors, this is unprecedented; they are saying that these kinds of occupational accidents like the methanol poisoning had been disappeared long ago in the early 20th Century.
What is even more shocking is that there remains high possibility that more victims who might be diagnosed with acute methanol poisoning caused by the exposure while working in the CNC process have not been identified yet.When a series of accidents occurred in February, 2016, the Ministry of Employment and Labor conducted an inspection over all the factories in which methanol was used. After the inspection, the Ministry announced that there is no more poisoning case in the workplace. However, these accidents aforementioned have not been identified by the Ministry at that time, which shows that the announcement is unreliable. Also, according to Kim, one of his colleagues also having trouble with the eye vison did not report his case to the Ministry.
A press conference was held at the National Assembly on October 12, 2016. “I came forward because I hope there will be no more victims like me,” Kim said at the press conference. Also, Cheon said, “I haven`t heard how dangerous my work was.”
메탄올 실명 추가 피해자 - 국회기자회견 사진.jpg
SAMSUNG, a prime contractor should take the responsibility for the methanol poisoning in its supply chain.
treatment methods for methanol. The workers neither received notifications of the substance’s danger nor had on-board orientation regarding the danger of their work. In addition, the workers never saw a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) during the course of their employment.
NGOs argue that SAMSUNG, a prime contractor should take the responsibility for the methanol poisoning in its entire supply chain. Specifically, they urge SAMSUNG should directly monitor not only the first tier subcontractors but also the second and third tier ones.
However, SAMSUNG has not officially assumed any responsibility for the occupational injuries of its subcontract workers. So far, SAMSUNG does not recognize the responsibility to directly monitor its second and third tier subcontractors, saying that it is ‘impossible’ for prime contractors to inspect all subcontractors, because there are too many. Moreover, SAMSUNG insists that it is capable of monitoring only first tier subcontractors, whom they have a direct contract, not subcontractors behind the first tier.
This argument obviously goes against what the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights (hereinafter UNGP) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises say about the responsibility of prime contractors in the supply chain. The right to work in a safe environment is fundamental and significant, which should be enjoyed by all workers irrespective of the tier of their workplace in the supply chain or whether they are directly employed or dispatched.
Victims and NGOs have already submitted the LETTER OF ALLEGATION to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights last June, arguing that SAMSUNG, one of the respondents, has abandoned its responsibility of monitoring the violations of occupational safety and health stemming from its subcontractors beyond the second tier in the supply chain, which constitutes the violation of the UNGP. NGOs are going to provide updated information about the two newly identified accidents to the UNWorking Group.
More information 
1. Samsung, LG subcontract wokers, blinded by methanol intoxication (youtube)
2. Methanol poisoning victims speak out(koreaherald)
3. Infringement of the Right to Health for Laborers in Samsung and LG Electronics’ Supply Chain Operations


Statment released from Solidarity for Worker’s Health : http://laborhealth.or.kr/42439

Campaign against medicine monopolies

“UNAIDS reports that only a third of the people in the Asia and Pacific region who need HIV treatment currently have access. If RCEP countries agree to elevated IP protection in RCEP, this figure could likely increase.”

“We call on all negotiating governments to reject all TRIPS plus measures in the RCEP. In particular we call upon wealthier countries such as South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand to resist pressing for IP provisions that threaten access to medicines for the world’s poor.”

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hospital workers strike against merit pay system

“Hospital workers strike against merit pay system”

…”Since it is tricky to quantify performance at hospitals, workers say they will be measured based on medical fees they generate, which will motivate them to make patients undergo unnecessary tests and treatments. They could also charge fees for services which were originally free, or buy low quality medical supplies in order to reduce costs, which will negatively affect patients.

“Performance-based pay will make institutions, which exist for the public, operate according to capitalism. This will result in squeezing money out of patients or only treating patients who need expensive treatments ― hospitals will forget their duty and become commercialized,” the leaders said.”…

Everyday 13.6 Children Are Abandoned Due to Abusive Parents and Poverty

#abondoned_child #economic_hardship  #unemployment #poverty #Korea
Bak (7) was entrusted to a welfare facility in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi-do early this year. His father abandoned him after losing his job, divorcing his wife, and suffering from economic burdens. Currently, Bak has lost contact with his father. His father left saying, “I’ll return when I make a lot of money,” but so far he has not once visited him.

The number of children abandoned due to their parents’ unemployment, abuse and poverty is increasing.

On September 6, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that the number of children protected by the state or social groups, because they could not receive care at home was 4,975 last year. This means that 13.63 children are being abandoned by their parents every day. A closer look according to regions shows that the most number of children were abandoned in Seoul (1,480), followed by Gyeonggi-do (682), Gangwon-do (335), Incheon (280), and Jeollanam-do (268). The biggest reason children were abandoned was because of abuse (1,094 cases). Other reasons included parental divorce (1,070), single mothers (930), and the parents’ poverty and unemployment.

In the case of Gyeonggi-do, the number of abandoned children aged six or younger increased nearly six-fold in the past three years from eleven in 2013 to 37 in 2014, and 64 in 2015. The majority of these children were secretly abandoned by their parents. The number of children secretly abandoned by their parents was ten in 2013, 33 in 2014, and 61 in 2015. The number of children who were lost (lost but never reunited with their parents) was one in 2013, four in 2014 and three in 2015.

The number of children requiring protection from the provincial districts and not the home due to their parents’ abuse, divorce, or because they were born to a single mother increased by 24 during the same period: 658 in 2013, 689 in 2014, and 682 in 2015. The children who were secretly abandoned by their parents accounted for 1.7% of the children requiring care in 2013, but their percentage increased every year to 4.7% in 2014 and 10.4% in 2015. More than half of the children requiring protection go to a childcare and protection facility and the number of children in the care of foster homes is relatively small. Among the 682 children requiring protection last year, 57 returned to their parents, but 390 out of the remaining 625 children went to a facility and 235 were put in the care of foster homes.

Experts point out that this phenomenon is the result of moral corruption and the collapse of social values. One representative of a child protection facility said, “Most of the parents are still alive, and the children are being abandoned because of their divorce. Such behavior is seen because of the moral corruption of the overall society as well as their parents and because of the collapse of social values.” She added, “It is important to prevent children from being abandoned, but we also need drastic measures to protect those that are.”

Young South Koreans say they don’t want their children to inherit their kind of life(Hankyoreh)

Young South Koreans say they don’t want their children to inherit their kind of life

Young people gathered on Aug. 31 at the Future Office at Seoul Innovation Park, located in the Eunpyeong District of Seoul, to share their candid opinions about South Korea’s low birthrate with a group of South Korean lawmakers.

#downsizing_population #low_birthrate #Korea

At meeting to discuss low birthrate, young people argue that gov’t needs a careful look at why young people are not getting married or having children

“I don’t want my children to inherit the kind of life I’m leading right now.” –Kwon Ji-woong, chair of the steering committee of the Seoul Youth Policy NetworkAround a dozen young people gathered on Aug. 31 at the Future Office at Seoul Innovation Park, located in the Eunpyeong District of Seoul, to share their candid opinions about South Korea’s low birthrate with a group of South Korean lawmakers.

The lawmakers are members of a National Assembly research forum that aims to find ways for lawmakers to help South Korean society overcome its extremely low birthrate.Rep. Yang Seung-jo and Rep. Kim Jeong-woo, both lawmakers with the opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, and Yun So-ha, a lawmaker with the opposition Justice Party, organized the meeting to hear from young people – the people who are, or rather aren’t, having children – about how to fix the low birthrate.

“A low birthrate is a statement by the majority of the members of a society that they do not want to perpetuate their current way of life. It amounts to a society deciding to commit suicide,” said Kwon, who is 28, during the meeting.

“Rather than trying to figure out how to encourage people to have children, we need to start with the question of how we can make people consider their lives as being worth living.”

“For structural reasons, young people who are able to enjoy the normal lives enjoyed by our parents’ generation – of dating, marrying and having children – are becoming a minority. Government policy should also begin by acknowledging the reality that young people are joining the work force later and are disinclined to get married, rather than demanding young people to get a job as soon as they graduate and to get married once they reach a certain age,” Kwon suggested.

Lim Gyeong-ji, 28, chair of the Min Snail Union, says lack of housing for young people is a reason for the low birthrate.“Since young people have low incomes and have to pay rent, it’s not very likely that they will be able to save enough money to buy a house. Instead of always coming up with supply- and loan-focused housing policies that promote home ownership, we need policies that can provide a stable lifestyle even for people who remain tenants their whole life and never manage to buy a house,” Lim said.

“Not long ago, the new chairman of the Korea Student Aid Foundation said that debt is what motivates people to work hard. But the reality is that young people face so much pressure to pay back their debts that it’s hard for them to picture a normal future,” said Han Yeong-seop, 36, director of the Youth Money Habit Training Center.

Han argues that the fact that a significant number of young people are going into debt to cover the cost of university tuition, housing, and living expenses is the main reason that they are putting off or even giving up on marriage and children.

“I’m over 30, and I’m dating someone, but even I’m still not sure whether I should get married. Rather than going on about how the low birthrate is a problem, the government and politicians need to take a careful look at why young people are not getting married or having children,” Han said.

The three lawmakers who organized the meeting said they will listen carefully to the difficulties that are actually faced by young people in a low-birthrate society and will attempt to address those difficulties through government policy. They added that they believe that this meeting should be taken as an opportunity not to simply say that Koreans need to have more children but to look at the structural problems in South Korean society.

By Hwangbo Yon, staff reporter


Original article from: http://bit.ly/2bQFBfL

Housing costs burden young women living alone(Koreaherald)

#single_household #housing_cost #Korea


Women in their 20s and 30s who make up single households in Seoul voluntarily decided to live alone, mostly because they sought freedom and convenient commutes. However, they often find themselves weighed down by housing expenses, data showed Tuesday.

According to a survey by the Seoul Foundation of Women and Family in June, 87.8 percent of respondents in the 20-39 age group said they chose independent lifestyles out of their own free will, while 65.1 percent cited the need to shorten commutes.

On the other hand, the older generation was more driven by factors such as separation with their spouses, either by death or divorce, living separately from their grown-up children and family discords.

Among the 500 respondents of the 40-59 age group, 55.6 percent said that they started to live alone due to family splits. The corresponding figure was much higher for those 60 and above, at 92.5 percent.

Meanwhile, 74.2 percent of those who make up single households in their 20s and 30s said they faced the financial burden of housing costs.

Report: Samsung endangered workers health in S Korea(Alzazeera)

Sign  the Petition: http://bit.ly/2bQCjcm

#Samsung #trade_secret #occupational_safety

Court documents show the electronics giant kept information on chemicals from workers for fear of exposing trade secrets

Samsung Group is South Korea’s largest family-controlled conglomerate [The Associated Press]

South Korean authorities let Samsung withhold from sick workers and their families crucial information about the chemicals they are exposed to at its computer chip and display factories, an Associated Press investigation has found.

A worker-safety group has documented more than 200 cases of serious illnesses, including leukaemia, lupus, lymphoma and multiple sclerosis, among former Samsung semiconductor and LCD workers.

 Viewfinder – A Father’s Protest

Seventy-six have died, most in their 20s and 30s.

It is extremely difficult for workers to get compensation for occupational diseases from the South Korean government, and without details of their exposure to toxins in their workplaces it is almost impossible.

“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,” said Park Min-Sook, 43, a former Samsung chip worker and breast cancer survivor.

Hwang Sang-Gi, father of Hwang Yu-mi, a former Samsung factory worker who died of leukaemia aged  22, told the AP that the company once offered him 1 billion won ($914,000) in exchange for his silence.

“The idea was to deny her illness was an occupational disease and to leave me without any power to fight back,” said Hwang, who launched a movement seeking independent inspections of Samsung factories.

Since 2008, 56 workers have applied for occupational safety compensation from the government. Only 10 have won compensation, most after years of court battles. Half of the other 46 claims were rejected and half remain under review.

People who have claimed that they became ill because of work they did for other major South Korean manufacturers, including Hyundai Motor, have received help from their unions in advancing their claims. Hyundai Motor now must get union approval before introducing new chemicals into its manufacturing processes. Samsung’s workforce is not unionised.

Trade secrets over workers’ health

In at least six cases involving 10 workers, the justification for withholding information was the protection of trade secrets. Court documents and interviews with government officials, workers’ lawyers and their families show that Samsung often cites the need to guard trade secrets when it asks government officials not to release such data.

“Our fight is often against trade secrets. Any contents that may not work in Samsung’s favour were deleted as trade secrets,” said Lim Ja-woon, a lawyer who has represented 15 sick Samsung workers.

Lim’s clients have been unable to get access to full reports on facility inspections, which are produced by third parties to comply with South Korean law, but remain the property of Samsung. Only excerpts of some independent inspections can be found in some court rulings, he said.

South Korea law bars governments and public agencies from withholding corporate information needed “to protect the lives, physical safety, and health” of individuals on the grounds of trade secrets, but there are no penalties for violations. Lim said that the law on occupational disease compensation also obligates Samsung to give workers the data they need to make claims.

Government officials openly say corporate interests take priority, that evaluating trade-secrets claims is difficult, and that they fear being sued for sharing data against a company’s will.

“We have to keep secrets that belong to our clients,” said Yang Won-baek, of the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, or KOSHA. “It’s about trust.”

Asked why he used the word “clients” to describe companies his government agency helps regulate, Yang said it’s probably because he treats those companies “as I treat clients”.

He said the companies KOSHA evaluates also review the agency, and the finance ministry considers those reviews when it sets agency budgets.

When asked for comment, Samsung issued a statement to the AP saying it never “intentionally” blocked workers from accessing information and that it is transparent about all chemicals it is required to disclose.

It also said there was no case where information disclosure was “illegally prevented”.

However, documents from courts and the labour ministry show that as recently as last year, Samsung asked the government not to disclose details of chemical exposure levels and other inspections – even at the request of judges for use in workers’ compensation lawsuits.

In a letter to regulators signed by the company’s chief executive, Samsung said that if factory details including “types and volumes of substances” were released for a workers’ compensation case, “it is feared that the technology gap with rivals at home and overseas would be reduced and our company’s competitiveness would be lowered. For that reason they are trade secrets that we treat strictly as secrets, we request not to disclose.”

‘Rigorous’ management

Although the company no longer omits lists of chemicals as it did in Hwang Yu-mi’s case, it has recently withheld details about exposure levels and how its chemicals are managed.

Samsung states on its website that its chemical management system is “rigorous” and “state-of-the art”. It has had “real-time, 24/7 chemical monitoring” in all facilities since 2007, the year the government began inquiries into Yu-mi’s death.

Yet Samsung began monitoring some toxic byproducts in the air only after a 2012 inspection detected benzene and formaldehyde – both known carcinogens – at its chip factories.

Baik Soo-ha, a Samsung Electronics vice president, told the AP that Samsung has redacted trade secrets in documents given to individuals only when their requests appeared not “purely” meant to determine occupational diseases.

“We have a right to protect our information from going to a third party,” he said. Baik did not elaborate on what sort of ulterior motives Samsung believes might be behind some requests.

Original Article from: http://bit.ly/2bQBkc1

Already OECD lowest, South Korea’s birthrate getting worse(hankyoreh)

South Korea fertility rate and number of births. Data: Statistics Korea

Government’s many measures have had little effect on raising the low birthrate

The reason the South Korean government has been left resorting to public “appeals” to overcome the low birth rate crisis stems from the fact that the rate has remained stagnant despite various measures to raise it over the years. The total fertility rate for women of childbearing age (15 to 49) stood at 4.53 in 1970. It fell steeply through the 1970s and 1980s before hitting rock bottom at 1.08 in 2005. While it hasn’t fallen any further since then, it also has shown almost no rebound in the ten years since. Last year, the South Korean birth rate was just 1.24. In terms of numbers of newborns, the decline has also been dramatic: from one million in 1970 to 438,000 last year. As of 2014, South Korea registered the lowest birth rate among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries.

Number of births this year

Maintaining the current population would require a replacement birth rate of 2.1. Countries that fail to achieve this level are called “low-birth rate societies”; those with a rate below 1.3 are called “ultra-low birth rate societies.” South Korea was already considered a low-birth rate society by 1983, but it was not until 2005 that it began vigorously pursuing measures to raise the birth rate. Since then, administrations have come out with measures to combat the low birth rate every five years – but the young couples who would be having the children are feeling little effect from them.In addition to number of newborns, declines have been occurring for most major indicators for low birth rate. The number of marriages between Jan. and May 2016 was down by 9,000 from the same period the year before. Employment conditions have failed to improve for young people, with the youth unemployment rate rising year after year (10.3% as of June). The number of women aged 25 to 39 – considered the most likely to have children – fell from 6.25 million in 2005 to 5.26 million last year.In announcing its third framework plan in Dec. 2015, Seoul set a total fertility rate target of 1.5 by 2020. Initially, it had pledged measures to increase the number of newborns this year to 445,000. The plan was to increase births by around 8,000 per year to reach the target of a birth rate of 1.5. But experts warn that with little impact perceived from the current measures, the number of births could drop below what has been called the “Maginot line” of 400,000.

By Hwangbo Yon and Noh Hyun-woong, staff reportersPlease direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

Article from: http://bit.ly/2bwuyTY

Korea low in gender-related indexes

#Gender_gap #Glass_ceiling_index #Korea

South Korea recorded low in two significant gender-related indexes, including the latest Gender Gap Report released annually by the World Economic Forum, a local study showed on Sunday.

According to the report, compiled by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, the World Economic Forum placed South Korea at 115 out of 145 countries in its annual index on gender equality last year.

The index has a total of four categories, including economic participation and opportunity, education and health and survival. South Korea’s rank in women’s economic participation and opportunity dropped significantly since 2006, the year the index was first published, according to the report.

In 2006, South Korea ranked in the 96th place in the specific category, belonging to the lowest 17 percent. Last year, the country ranked at an even lower place, 125th, belonging to the lowest 14 percent.


South Korea was also placed at the bottom — along with Japan and Turkey – among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries in this year’s “glass-ceiling index” compiled and published by the British weekly the Economist. The index was created after combining data on women’s higher education, labor force population, maternity rights and representation in leadership roles, among others.

“In South Korea the favorable parental-leave system is mainly a response to its aging populations and shrinking labor force; but in other aspects it is far behind the Nordic countries, whose commitment to sexual equality goes back a long way,” the paper wrote.

A 2014 report from the International Monetary Fund found that the wide gender wage gap in South Korea is linked to the country’s employment market that often offers little job security.

“These indexes show that little is being done to tackle gender disparity in South Korea,” wrote researcher Park Geum-ryeong in the report. “Among many other things, Korea should come up with its own gender index that is conscious of the country’s unique social and cultural climate that affects the lives of women, such as social pressure on child care and domestic chores.”

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)


Article from : http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20160828000266

2 workers die in renovation from a motel to hospital (Koreaherald)

Renovating motel to hospital seems common practice in S.Korea thesedays.

#worker’s_death #motel_to_hospital #Korea

Two workers died and four were injured when the roof of a three-story building collapsed Sunday during renovation work in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, Monday.

Three of the six workers were buried under the debris when the roof collapsed during work to transform the third floor from a motel to hospital offices.


Two of the buried workers died, but one was found alive after a 14-hour rescue effort.

The building’s structure was too weak use heavy machinery in the rescue operation, and the number of workers assigned to the rescue had to be limited to 20 at a time to avoid a secondary collapse.

Two of the workers were found to have been crushed to death by the debris.


A third was found to have survived, having stepped outside to smoke against a wall minutes before the sudden cave-in, avoiding the direct impact of the fallen roof.

The authorities suspect that the workers had unwittingly knocked down a wall that supported the roof, mistaking it for a non-supporting partition wall to separate motel rooms.

The mistake may have arisen partly because the building differed from typical Korean structures as it was built entirely of unreinforced brickwork, and blueprints of the original construction were missing, authorities said.


The authorities plan to question whether there were any legal breaches in the reconstruction work.

The first floor of the building is being used as a Chinese restaurant and the second floor is a hospital office area.

The renovation had been intended to expand the hospital’s premises.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)

Original article from : http://bit.ly/2bwt0ZU