Korean electronics firm SK Hynix has agreed to provide compensation to current and former semiconductor factory workers, including those of its subcontractors, who may be suffering from a range of occupational diseases including cancer.
The company said it would accept “immediately” the recommendation of an industrial and public health review committee that conducted a year-long inspection of Hynix semiconductor workplaces.
The committee, headed by Ajou University preventive medicine professor Jang Jae-yeon, announced its findings at a press conference in Seoul on 25 November 2015. Its report recommended that workers suffering a range of conditions should be compensated by the firm, even though it accepted establishing the causal relationship between the semiconductor working environment and suspected occupational diseases was “difficult to prove.”
The committee was formed in the wake of a critical 2014 report by the Hankyoreh newspaper. In response, a team of seven outside independent experts was formed in October 2014 to conduct on-site inspections. National Health Insurance Service data showed male and female workers had respectively thyroid cancer rates 2.6 and 1.3 times the average for all workers, while women showed higher-than-average rates of miscarriage (1.3 times) and bladder cancer (1.1 times).
Professor Jang said: “We would need to track and manage incidence rates for a period of ten to twenty years, and the problem there is that people couldn’t get compensation if we judged it strictly by causation.” He added: “That’s why we are proposing a comprehensive support and compensation system that provides the basic level needed for patients whose health has been impaired to treat their conditions and maintain everyday life.”
The committee’s recommendations, agreed by the company, indicated all cases of cancer, miscarriage, and rare diseases suspected of even a slight association with work in the semiconductor industry should be included. “The committee’s determination was that if you contracted cancer while working somewhere, society should not just ignore that,” Jang said.
SK Hynix responded by saying it would “implement support and compensation for all patients with suspected [occupational disease] conditions in according with our company’s social role.”