#work_related_disease #Samsung #semi-conductor_plant #multiple_sclerosis #Banollim
“Considering that Kim acquired the disease earlier than the average age of incidence (38.3 years) and that four people have come down with the disease on the job at Samsung Electronics, the work environment probably triggered the disease or at least caused it to develop faster than normal,”
Samsung’s semiconductor factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province
Former semiconductor worker likely had rare disease caused by exposure to solvents at factory
A South Korean court has recognized a former worker at Samsung Electronics’ semiconductor factory who is suffering from the rare disease of multiple sclerosis as having a work-related condition, the first time that multiple sclerosis has been recognized as a work-related condition on the semiconductor production line at Samsung Electronics.
“Even in the case of rare diseases whose causes have not been completely determined, when the elements mentioned in current medical research as causing or aggravating the disease are present in the work environment or in the work process, the disease should be recognized as being work-related,” the court said.On May 28, Hon. Kim Yong-seok, presiding judge in the second administrative division of the Seoul High Court, overruled the lower court and sided with the plaintiff, Kim So-jeong (33, not her real name), who contracted multiple sclerosis after working for two years at Samsung’s semiconductor factory in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province. Kim had asked the court to force the Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL) to reverse its decision not to cover Kim’s medical expenses.
Kim got a job at Samsung straight out of high school in 2003 but quit after just two years. That was when she started experiencing symptoms such as weight loss, irregular urination, loss of vision, facial paralysis and reduced sensation, and three years after leaving Samsung, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She asked KCOMWEL to cover the cost of her treatment, but the agency refused her request, leading her to file a lawsuit in 2013.
Multiple sclerosis is an extremely rare disease, only occurring in 3.5 out of 100,000 people (and 1.4 out of 100,000 people in their twenties) in South Korea, and the exact cause of the disease has not been determined. For these reasons, KCOMWEL argued, it is not a work-related disease.But the court concluded that Kim’s multiple sclerosis was work-related because three of the factors thought to cause the disease applied to Kim: inadequate exposure to sunlight, exposure to organic solvents and heavy metals, and working in shifts.
“Considering that Kim acquired the disease earlier than the average age of incidence (38.3 years) and that four people have come down with the disease on the job at Samsung Electronics, the work environment probably triggered the disease or at least caused it to develop faster than normal,” the court said.In connection with exposure to organic solvents, the court also quoted the results of a 2013 assessment of health and safety at the Giheung plant by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA), which found that the plant did not have any equipment to blow harmful gases outside the building and that not enough was being done to prevent workers from being exposed to high concentrations of harmful materials in a short period of time. “Considering that Samsung Electronics did not submit the documents that were necessary for assessing its system for managing the exposure to harmful materials on the grounds that this was a business secret, there seem to have been more problems than the ones that were identified,” the court said, a remark that implicitly criticizes Samsung Electronics’ reluctance to submit the documents in question.“The Korea Workers‘ Compensation and Welfare Service must not prolong the suffering of the victim by unfairly appealing this decision,” said Banollim, a watchdog group advocating the health of semiconductor plant workers, in a statement released on May 28. Banollim represented Kim in the case.
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