The lung cancer deaths of two former Samsung Electronics semiconductor factory workers have been accepted as work-related by the Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL).
The cases are the first officially recognised cases of occupational lung cancer among Samsung Electronics semiconductor workers. The ruling is expected to prove controversial, with lung cancer not included among diseases Samsung Electronics has acknowledged as linked to semiconductor work.
A 1 September statement from the human rights group Banollim stated that KCOMWEL “issued final rulings on 29 and 30 August recognising the lung cancer deaths of Lee Gyeong-hui and Song Yu-gyeong as industrial accidents.”
Lee died aged 38 and Song aged 43. KCOMWEL’s decision came over two years after the family members applied for bereavement benefits. According to the ruling, “the deceased appear to have been continuously exposed to arsenic while performing their duties, and given that their diagnoses of and deaths from lung cancer came at an early age in the absence of other risk factors, a connection with their duties is recognised.” Arsenic is a known cause of lung cancer.
An epidemiological report for Lee’s case said there was evidence of four Samsung Electronics partner companies attempting to hinder KCOMWEL’s investigation. At the time, the semiconductor production line where Lee and Song worked had been outsourced to current Samsung partners.
Banollim said: “During this investigation, Samsung Electronics claimed not to use carcinogens, but there was no mention of arsenic in the materials it presented as evidence.”
The campaign for Samsung victims, SHARPS, said the KCOMWEL ruling meant the Korean authorities now recognise officially eight conditions as occupationally related to semiconductor work: Leukaemia; lymphoma; aplastic anaemia; breast cancer; chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy; brain cancer; ovarian cancer; and lung cancer.