Samsung victim wins decade long fight for recognition

A victim of occupational cancer caused by toxic exposures while working at Samsung has won a decade long fight for compensation.

On 5 June 2019, Han Hye-kyung was notified her workers’ compensation claim had been approved by the South Korean compensation authority KCOMWEL.

Han, 41, was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 27 in 2005. Four years earlier, in 2001, she had resigned from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, where she had handled hazardous chemicals while soldering together LCD parts for six years. Han was only 17-years-old and still in high school when she began to work at Samsung.

In 2009, Han, together with her single mother, Kim Si-nyeo, petitioned unsuccessfully for workers’ compensation. However, in 2017 South Korea’s supreme court ordered KCOMWEL to posthumously pay workers’ compensation to a Samsung worker who died of a brain tumour. This decision paved the way for Han to request the re-evaluation of her workers’ compensation case. Two years later KCOMWEL finally decided in Han’s favour.

Both Han and her mother Kim are active members of grassroots campaign group SHARPS, which has spearheaded the campaign for justice for Samsung’s occupational disease victims. Both have attended “countless” SHARPS pickets, protests and rallies.

Despite the family facing terrible hardship, they turned down a surreptitious 2013 offer from Samsung executives of KRW 1 billion (U$1m/£665,000) and full medical coverage, because the settlement was conditional on the family severing its ties with SHARPS.

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