International investors request explanation from Samsung over occupational hazards allegations
: Eight international investors have launched a joint inquiry, to which Samsung is expected to issue a formal response
Posted on : Jun.2,2010 14:29 KST
The Hankyoreh 21 exclusively obtained a letter issued by eight foreign investors including the All Pensions Group (APG) of the Netherlands, which was sent to Samsung Electronics President Choi Ji-seong on May 21. The investors requested that Samsung provide more information about occupational safety raised by Samsung‘s former employees.
The investors are a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) of the UN, which was established by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on April, 2006. It states that eco-friendliness, social responsibility and corporate governance should be considered as important factors for investment. About 700 institutional investors managing the 15 percent of the world’s invested capital have joined PRI.
They have broached six questions about the allegations of Samsung Electronics’ toxic chemicals. First, regarding Samsung’s plan to invite a third-party investigation team, they have requested more information about the timeline to implement this plan, the strategy on how to deal with its outcomes and to what degree Samsung would disclose the outcomes to its investors and/or to the public.
They also asked if Samsung currently has plans to deal with the ailing ex-employees including the provision of medical supports, training activities and presence of a whistle-blowing policy and effectiveness of governance regarding overall work place safety issues.
The death of former Samsung Electronics employee Hwang Yu-mi ignited the allegation of Samsung’s workplace safety. Hwang passed away from acute leukemia in March 2007 at the age of 23, after working in the third line at Samsung Electronics’ Giheung plant. Another employee Park Ji-hyeon, who fell ill with acute leukemia after working at Samsung Electronics’ Onyang plant, died on March 31, 2010. Samsung denied any link between cancer and the workplace conditions, however, by opening up the Giheung plant to the media on April 15. Samsung called the string of diseases “mere coincidence.”
The situation took a volatile turn when the Hankyoreh 21 published an internal Samsung semiconductor handbook describing a wide range of toxic chemicals used in the plant in an article entitled “Samsung Semiconductor Uses Six Types of ‘carcinogens’,” published May 21, 2010.
APG initially proposed a joint inquiry into the allegations about Samsung on April 30, saying, “Twenty-three former employees of Samsung Electronics have fallen ill with leukemia through April 22, and they have raised questions about occupational safety at Samsung Electronics plants.”
Initially, APG proposed that investors request Samsung disclose more information on the safety of the workplace, and eight international investors made the decision to support the proposal.
An APG official said other investors had already submitted respective requests to Samsung to explain the occupational safety allegations. The institutional investors that joined the joint inquiry plan will coordinate on the allegations through conference calls soon. Samsung is expected in turn to issue a formal response to the investors’ inquiries.
By Lim Ji-seon firstname.lastname@example.org