Electronics giant Samsung denied that workers at its semiconductor factories faced a bigger cancer risk as the world’s top memory chips-maker tried to quell health fears following employee illnesses and deaths.
South Korea’s biggest company is trying to reassure the public after a January lawsuit involving six people who developed leukaemia and lymphoma they claim was caused by exposure to radiation and benzene, a carcinogen, in Samsung chip factories. Four of them have died.
On Thursday, the company invited reporters to a chip plant south of Seoul to demonstrate its manufacturing process and emphasise its commitment to safety.
“There is no risk,” said Cho Soo-in, president of the company’s memory division. Activist groups say at least 23 people – including those named in the lawsuit – developed cancer over about a decade due to working at Samsung and that at least nine had died.
Samsung said that 22 chip plant workers were diagnosed with leukaemia or lymphoma and that 10 died between 1998 and this year.
The lawsuit was filed against a government agency, the Korea Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service, after it refused to pay compensation following an investigation by occupational safety authorities which failed to find work-related causes for the cancers.
Samsung is not a defendant but is co-operating with the service at the trial. Baak Young-mann, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he was not surprised by Samsung’s stance. “The workers, the victims, said they worked in a risky environment,” Mr Baak said. On the risk of cancer among employees, he said Samsung’s “opinion is far from the truth”.