Samsung seals partial agreement with leukemia victims

Samsung seals partial agreement with leukemia victims

Taking a step closer toward ending a decade-old dispute, Samsung Electronics and victims of leukemia and their families reached an agreement to take measures to prevent recurrence of the disease at workplaces.

The agreement was made during a three-way meeting among the tech giant and two groups representing victims of leukemia in Seoul on Tuesday.

Under the deal, they would set up an independent organisation to deal with checking working conditions at Samsung's facilities.

The ombudsman committee would monitor and evaluate the safety steps implemented at Samsung's semiconductor and liquid crystal display factories, and suggest recommendations for improvement to the firm.

The committee, which will be run for three years with an extension option for another three years, would be led by Lee Cheol-soo, a law professor at Seoul National University. Two industry health or environment experts will later join the committee.

Samsung hailed the agreement as a "meaningful step," in solving the long-running issue related to the correlation between workplace conditions and leukemia.

But one group of leukemia victims, Banolim, said the agreement did not constitute the full settlement of the negotiations, and the group will "continue its fight against Samsung, urging it to take actions to solve the rest of the unresolved issues."

Both sides stopped short of reaching a final agreement on compensation and apologies, which have been the centerpieces of the prolonged debate.

The leukemia issue came to the surface after Hwang Yu-mi, a former employee at Samsung's chipmaking facility south of Seoul, died of leukemia in 2007.

Her father and other families of victims of leukemia, cancer and other diseases who worked at Samsung, along with human rights lawyers and labour activists, have held protests against the tech giant, demanding compensation and an apology.

Among the 221 workers who contracted the fatal diseases, 75 had died as of last year, according to Banolim.

The tech giant was often condemned by critics and advocacy groups for unabashedly attempting to buy the silence of the bereaved families and supporters and trying to turn its eyes away from the conflicting leukemia issue in the fear of having its image as the world's leading chipmaker marred.

The talks between the advocacy group, the victims' families and Samsung started in December 2013 for the first time, but were at a stalemate, failing to narrow significant gaps. They came to the table last year again to restart the negotiations.

The company promised that it would set up a fund worth 100 billion won ($82.6 million) for compensation and research of work-related diseases last year.

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