Samsung semiconductor worker is first case of female infertility recognized as industrial accident (Hankyoreh)

“A female worker‘s infertility has been recognized as an industrial accident for the first time in South Korean history.”

“27% of 406 female nurses who had handled such substances as having experienced difficulty conceiving; 22.8% as having experienced premature birth, stillbirth, or miscarriage; and 20.2% of having experienced menstrual irregularities. While the stillbirth and miscarriage rate was 13.9% for female workers enrolled in health insurance through their workplace between 2007 and 2015, an analysis for manufacturing in particular found high rates of 16.6% and 16.2% for timber, lumber products, and furniture manufacturing and for rubber and plastic manufacturing, respectively.”

#Samsung #female_infertility_as_occupational_disease #industrial_accident #Korea


Samsung’s semiconductor factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province

Data show women who handle toxic chemicals at work more likely to suffer reproductive difficulties, including miscarriages

A female worker‘s infertility has been recognized as an industrial accident for the first time in South Korean history. The decision recognizing the worker’s infertility as an “occupational disease” was significant in coming amid widespread attention to the protection of mothers in response to South Korea’s low birth rate, as well as growing interest in the use of reproduction-toxic substances in workplaces.

The Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service (K-COMWEL) announced on Mar. 19 that it had granted the request of a 39-year-old surnamed Kim to have her infertility recognized as an occupational disease and treatment benefits paid. Kim worked for 15 years in a production position at a Samsung semiconductors factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province.

Kim went to work at Samsung in 1997 after graduating high school. She began undergoing treatment for infertility in 2008, when she was 30 years old. She left the company in 2012 due to a missed miscarriage and other ill health, and filed for industrial accident certification in 2013.“While performing shift work for 15 years as a production employee at a semiconductor plant, [Kim] was exposed, albeit in small quantities, to organic compounds such as ethylene glycol,” K-COMWEL wrote in its occupational disease ruling for Kim. “The causal relationship with her duties is recognized, as the weakening of her physical functions, including diminished immune capabilities as a result of overwork and stress related to long-term shift work, led to her infertility.”

Used in semiconductor plants as a cleaning solution, ethylene glycol is classified as a reproduction-toxic substance that causes birth defects. While infertility and miscarriages were cited as potentially subject to compensation in a 2015 recommendation by the Samsung occupational disease mediation committee, they have not been included in the standards of the company‘s independently formed compensation committee.

Reproduction-toxic substances, or substances with harmful effects on reproduction functions and capabilities and embryo generation and development, have been seen as causing far-reaching damages, as they not only affect the individual suffering exposure but can also cause health problems in the next generation. According to Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) data, a 2014 working environment survey counted 33,828 female workers with a high risk of exposure to reproduction-toxic factors at workplaces with five or more employees. The number accounted for 6.78% of the 499,194 total female workers in production positions. By occupation, the highest totals were found in leather, handbag, and shoe manufacturing, followed by electronics, textile manufacturing, and food manufacturing.

A Dec. 2016 report published by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea from a survey on the human rights of workers handling reproduction-toxic substances showed 27% of 406 female nurses who had handled such substances as having experienced difficulty conceiving; 22.8% as having experienced premature birth, stillbirth, or miscarriage; and 20.2% of having experienced menstrual irregularities. While the stillbirth and miscarriage rate was 13.9% for female workers enrolled in health insurance through their workplace between 2007 and 2015, an analysis for manufacturing in particular found high rates of 16.6% and 16.2% for timber, lumber products, and furniture manufacturing and for rubber and plastic manufacturing, respectively.

The semiconductor workers’ health and human rights watchdog group Banollim, which represented Kim in her application, released a statement on Mar. 19 expressing “hope that other workers suffering from the same condition will have the courage to carry on with having it recognized as an industrial accident.”

“Suitable government-level measures must be taken for toxic chemicals and other factors threatening the health and lives of semiconductor workers,” the group said.Kim In-ah, an occupational and environmental medicine professor at the Hanyang University College of Medicine, said, “At a time when the low birth rate is becoming a societal issue, the only way to ensure healthy and safe childbirth is through more proactive management and oversight of reproduction-toxic substances.”

“We need active government regulation to prevent female workers who are pregnant or of childbearing age from handling reproduction-toxic substances,”

Kim said.By Park Tae-woo, staff reporter


Original Article:

After “I, Daniel Blake” protest, disabled activists get a bill for building defacement(hankyoreh)

#Framework_Act_on_Social_Security #SADD #Solidarity_against_disability_Discriination #$2,300_for_the_demonstration


Park Gyeong-seok, co-representative of the group Solidarity against Disability Discrimination, spray paints his name on the wall of the Social Security Committee, while calling for passage of an amendment to the Framework Act on Social Security, Feb. 15. (by Kim Jeong-hyo, staff photographer)

Inspired by British movie, activists called for expansion of disability benefits and recognition of their humanity

“You defaced the exterior of our service’s building during the ‘I, Daniel Blake. Welfare in South Korea Today’ event on February 15. We requested [an estimate of] restoration expenses from a professional company and received a reply stating that they would cost 2,717,000 won (US$2,358).”

Park Gyeong-seok, co-representative of the group Solidarity against Disability Discrimination (SADD), received a notice on Feb. 28 from the National Pension Service demanding over US$2,300 in damages for the defacing of its office during a Feb. 15 demonstration.

Park had used red spray paint to write the message “I, Park Gyeong-seok, am a human being, not a dog” on the building, which houses the Social Security Committee. It was a South Korean version of the “I, Daniel Blake” declaration. British director Ken Loach’s film “I, Daniel Blake,” which opened in late 2016, tells of a protagonist who applies for health benefits when a heart ailment leaves him unable to work. Instead of receiving the benefits, he suffers various indignities. At one point, he uses spray paint to write a message on the employment center building reading, “I, Daniel Blake, demand my appeal date [for benefits] before I starve. And change that shite music on the phones.”

Park said he anticipated the request for damages, but added that he was “shocked at the ‘otherizing’ attitude, the way they acted as though welfare issues for disabled people – such as disability class rulings and decisions on recognized points for assistance services – were not their responsibility.”

“They don’t reply at all about the demands I made to the service, but they send a notice focusing only on the fact that the building was defaced. . . .”

With its Feb. 15 demonstration, SADD demanded that the National Pension Service expand its welfare services for disabled persons and called for passage of an amendment to the Framework Act on Social Security to revise the consultation and coordination system between the central and provincial governments. Assistance services for disabled persons were reduced or halted for some local governments after the government’s Social Security Committee (chaired by the Prime Minister) decided in 2015 to demand local governments throughout South Korea fully reexamine their social security systems as part of a plan for “improved social services finance efficiency.”

The National Pension Service has demanded payment of the damages by Mar. 15, warning that it would pursue legal action if they are not paid in full.

“We need to share how conditions really are for disabled people, even if it’s like this,” Park said.“Look at how much humiliation disabled people suffer as human beings under a system created by the state and the institutions enforcing it,” he added.


By Ko Han-sol, staff reporter

Article from :

Cigarette sales drop for 3 straight months (Korea herald)

#tobacco_control_policy #pictorial_health_warnings 
Sales of cigarettes in South Korea fell for three straight months in February, following the government’s push to imprint health warning graphics on packages, government data showed Monday.

Some 240 million packs of cigarettes were sold last month, down 14 percent from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

The monthly sales have been on a decline since November last year, when 290 million packs were sold.

The ministry attributed the sales drop to a government-led anti-smoking campaign.


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Around one-quarter of South Koreans stuck in low-wage work (hankyoreh)

More women than men in low-wage work, and despite increase, South Korea’s welfare spending still roughly half OECD average

Around one-quarter of South Korean wage earners are engaged in low-wage work, a percentage that has remained virtually unchanged with just a 0.5 percentage point drop in the past 10 years, a study shows.South Korea’s public and social welfare expenditures were also found to be just half the average for OECD member countries.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare announced the findings as part of a report titled “Social Security Viewed through Statistics 2016” published on Mar. 2. The social security statistics consist of 162 representative indicators in areas such as family, health, work, employment security, poverty, and environment.
The findings published on Mar. 2 showed 23.7% of workers in low-wage jobs, the third highest rate in the OECD after Ireland the US. The indicator is a representation of wage inequality, with higher percentages of low-wage workers signifying not only labor market inequality but a greater likely of working poverty.The category of low-wage workers includes those earning less than two-thirds the median salary for all wage earners. By 2014 standards, it represented an hourly wage below 6,712 won (US$5.84), or approximately 1.4 million won (US$1,220) per month.
The rate of low-wage employment was far higher for women than men by a margin of 37.8% to 15.4% – a number attributable to the large percentage of female workers in low-income industries such as hospitality and restaurants or in irregular positions. The percentage of workers in low-wage jobs was also down by only 0.5 percentage points from the 24.2% recorded in 2004, indicating almost no improvement in the preceding decade.
South Korea’s public and social welfare spending was found to remain at a low level. In 2014, South Korea spent 10.4% of GDP on public and social welfare, or roughly half the 21% average for the OECD’s 30 member countries.At the same time, the Ministry of Health and Welfare noted, “While the OECD average increased by 0.98% a year from 2000 to 2016, South Korea’s annual rate of increase in public and social welfare spending over the same period was high at 5.4%.”The rate of national Basic Livelihood Benefits payment was calculated at 3.2% for 2015, with 16,460,000 beneficiaries. The rate showed almost no increase from 2001, when it stood at 3%.
By Hwangbo Yon, staff reporter

South Korea takes down website that maps its most fertile female citizens

#gender, #fertile_female_map, #lowest_birth_rate, #sexist_government_of_South_Korea

Feminist campaigners are not happy about the pink-coloured map

South Korea has taken down a website showing where its most fertile female citizens live within hours of it going live.

The pink-coloured map showed users where there were the most women aged 15 to 49 as part of the government’s drive to reverse a flagging birth rate.

But a storm of criticism led it to deactivate the site while it undergoes corrections. People had complained that it treated the birth rate as a problem that only related to women, because there were no pictures of men on the site.

Feminist campaigner Lee Min-kyung, 24, said: “I felt so angered that it blatantly showed how the government saw women’s bodies as the country’s reproductive tools.”

South Korean ministers said the website “was established to encourage local governments to learn and compare other governments’ benefits and to promote free competition”.

Users could also check what benefits local authorities could give them if they had a child, the average marriage age and other information.

The country has tried a number of methods to boost the birth rate, including cracking down on illegal abortions and turning off lights in office buildings early to encourage workers to head home.

South Korea has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, significantly lower than it was 50 years ago. Officials fear a shrinking workforce will hit economic growth.


Original article from


Health ministry inspects clinics involved in scandal(Koreatimes)


#Private_clinic’s_usage_in_scandal ##cha_hospital_alleged_of_favor #SNUH_also_alleged #Korea’s_President_Park_Scandal #What_about_MoH_itself?


The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Friday began investigations into two clinics which have been allegedly linked to President Park Geun-hye’s scandal-ridden confidant Choi Soon-sil and also involved in suspicions about treatments for Park.

The ministry ordered the Gangnam Public Health Center to conduct inspections of the Gangnam-based Kim Young-jae Plastic Surgery Clinic and the anti-aging clinic Chaum, which are affiliated with the Cha Medical Group. Both clinics are known to have been frequented by Choi and members of her family since 2010.

The latest allegations are that Choi and her secretary were prescribed medications on behalf of the President. Park is also known to have visited the clinic as a lawmaker before becoming President. The medications have been reported as fatigue-relieving vitamin shots.

Prescribing medications to someone else on behalf of a patient is allowed only rarely.

The clinic denied the proxy prescription, saying the medications were for Choi, not Park. But a source at the hospital told local broadcaster JTBC that Choi wrote “Cheong Wa Dae” when she got the prescriptions.

There are suspicions that a doctor who was taking care of Choi at Chaum, surnamed Kim, was granted favors because he became one of the President’s medical advisors at the beginning of her term in 2013.

It is also alleged that the medical group benefited from the government: it was included in the economic delegations when the President visited China and Iran in 2015 and 2016. In addition, Cha Hospital was selected as a ministry hospital in charge of research, and received 19.2 billion won in funding.

The hospital denied the allegations about favors.

Kim, who left the hospital in 2014, reportedly said he did not know about Choi’s influence.

The Kim Young-jae Plastic Surgery Clinic was also frequented by Choi and her daughter Chung Yoo-ra.

The director surnamed Kim, who was a general practitioner and not a specialist, was appointed by Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) as a doctor for outpatient care, raising suspicions that he was granted the favor based on his acquaintance with Choi.

SNUH President Suh Chang-suk said Kim was appointed because a wealthy patient from China wanted treatment from Kim, but said he was dismissed as the patient did not come.

Suh served as the President’s doctor from September 2014 to February this year. Kim was made an outpatient doctor two months after Suh was appointed.

SNUH also supplied the thread used in Kim’s facelift procedures at its cosmetics surgery division.

Kim followed President Park on her overseas trips, as an executive of a medical appliances company owned by his wife.

Kim’s brother-in-law had the chance to promote his cosmetics company’s products on the President’s visit to France. Products of this company were provided as Park’s gifts for the Seollal holiday this year.

However, Suh said he did not know Choi.

Meanwhile, there have been rumors that the President, whose whereabouts for seven hours right after the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16, 2014, remain unclear, was receiving a procedure at Kim’s clinic.

The clinic denied that Kim performed the surgery, claiming he was out playing golf at the time. Cheong Wa Dae also officially denied the suspicion.

original article from

Global institutions call South Korea a “climate villain”(hankyoreh)

#climate_change #Korea #ICCA #climate_vilain

Support for coal-fired power plants and abandonment of emission reduction targets cited as reasons for low assessment

South Korea has been named a leading “climate villain” for 2016 by institutions researching a response to global climate change.“Climate villains” is a term referring to countries that have been most irresponsible and negligent about responding to climate change.The Institute for Climate Change Action (ICCA), headed by Ahn Byeong-ok, announced on Nov. 6 that South Korea had been named alongside Saudi Arabia, Australia, and New Zealand as one of the world‘s four biggest climate villains on Nov. 4 by the climate change online news outlet Climate Home based on analytical findings from Climate Action Tracker (CAT). CAT is a consortium of independent research institutions jointly founded in 2009 by the three international climate change research agencies Climate Analytics, Ecofys, and NewClimate Institute. Every year, it tracks reduction activities in 32 major countries responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and publishes analytical findings.Reasons given for South Korea’s inclusion as a climate villain included the steep rate of increase in its per capita greenhouse gas emissions, its financial support for coal-fired power plant exports, and its abandonment of greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020.“This isn’t the first time South Korea’s climate change response capabilities have been rated among the world‘s lowest,” said ICCA. “The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) for 2016 published on Dec. 8 of last year by the private institute German Watch and CAN Europe showed it ranking 54th among the 58 countries surveyed. It had fallen 23 spots in just five years, solidifying its image in the international community as a ’rogue climate state.‘”It’s an image that “is very likely to hurt national prestige and bring about monitoring and controls by the international community that are going to create difficulties in terms of foreign affairs and the economy,” ICCA added.“To overcome this situation and respond to the new climate regime, we‘re going to need to return climate change policy to its rightful place after all the backsliding under the Park Geun-hye administration,” it said.By Kim Jeong-soo, senior staff writer




Article from

Women in South Korea launch Polish-inspired pro-choice campaign to fully legalise abortion

#reproductive_right #mybodymychoice #prochoice_movement

South Korean pro-choice activists are demanding the full legalisation of abortion in the country.

Inspired by the Black Monday protests in Poland, a coalition of groups including Womad and Women’s online community union have started working together on a campaign calling for people to post pictures of themselves wearing black on social media and participating in Sunday gatherings in Seoul

All organisers and participants opt to remain anonymous, not showing their face in their social media posts, shared under the hashtags #blacksunday_korea, #mybodymychoice, covering their faces. A spokeswoman for the organising groups told IBTimes UK that they fear repercussions on their personal lives. In July, game company Nexon fired voice actress Jayeon Kim because she wore a t-shirt reading “girls do not need a prince”.

“I don’t need a hero. I need a friend.”
Star vs. the Forces of Evil EP08

“This shows that we are at risk of losing our jobs just for being feminist,” the spokeswoman said, adding that feminists have suffered sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and violation of privacy for demonstrating and postings pro-choice messages.

In South Korea, abortion is technically illegal. It is only allowed in case of serious illness, threats to the woman’s or the foetus’ life or rape, but only within the first 24 weeks. After that period, all abortions are banned. In 2012, the constitutional court voted to uphold the abortion ban that was put in place in 1953.

Yet, around 200,000 abortions are performed every year, only 5% of which are legal, highlighting the discrepancy between the widespread practice of abortion and its strict punishment under Korean law. A woman inducing an abortion through the use of drugs or other means is punishable with up to a year in jail or a KRW 2m (£1450, $1365) fine, but men are excluded from such punishment. Doctors found performing abortions face up to two years in prison.

South Korea pro-choice protestors
Pro-abortion demonstrators have organised Sunday gatherings in Seoul to demand the full legalisation of abortionSupplied to IBTimes UK

Following recent government attempts to strengthen punishment for doctors, South Korean activists decided it was time to take to the streets. “The Polish demonstration was so impressive it moved our hearts,” the spokeswoman said, explaining the motivation behind the protest. The South Korean activists adopted the Polish black protests’ symbol of the uterus giving the finger and the black dress code.

South Korea elected Park Geun-hye as its first female president in 2013. Asked whether having a woman in power will strengthen support for the pro-choice movement, she said: “We hope everyone will support and listen to our voice. Of course, we want Korean politicians to fight to complete abortion legalisation.”

Referring to the 2017 presidential election, she added: “Young women will consider candidates’ women’s policies as their first priority.”

South Korea pro-choice banner
A pro-choice demonstrator holds a rainproof banner in the black Sunday protest in Seoulsupplied to IBTimes UK

[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 :

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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