South Korea’s Supreme Court has ruled that the family of a Samsung worker who died of a brain tumour is eligible for state compensation for an occupational disease.
The country’s highest court overturned an appeal court’s decision in the case of Lee Yoon-jung, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at age 30 and died two years later. Lee worked at a Samsung chip factory for six years from 1997 to 2003, but there was no record available of the levels of chemicals she was exposed to while working there.
The appeal court denied the claim filed by Lee, based on government investigations into the factory conducted after she left her job. The investigations reported that the workers’ exposure to some toxins, such as benzene, formaldehyde and lead, were lower than maximum permissible limits. They did not measure exposure levels to other chemicals or investigate their health risks.
The Supreme Court said such limitations in government investigations should not be held against a worker with a rare disease whose cause is unknown.
The case filed by Lee’s family is the second this year where South Korea’s highest court has ruled in favour of a worker. In August, the Supreme Court struck down a lower court’s ruling that denied compensation to a former Samsung LCD factory worker with multiple sclerosis.
Lim Ja-woon, the lawyer representing Lee, said brain tumours are the second-most common disease, after leukaemia, among former Samsung workers seeking occupational disease compensation from the government or the company. He said 27 Samsung Electronics workers have been diagnosed with brain tumours, including eight who worked at the same factory as Lee.