Samsung blocks investigation on an LCD engineer’s suicide
: Samsung has refused dialogue, while the Labor Ministry has refused disclosure of employment regulations and Lee Ju-hyeon’s health examination
By Lim Ji-sun
As workers streamed out of the building for lunch at noon on Thursday, three women stood in front of the head office of Samsung Electronics in Seoul’s Seocho neighborhood holding a funeral portrait and wailing. The women are the mother, older sister, and aunt of Kim Ju-hyeon, a worker at the company’s Tangjeong LCD complex who committed suicide in his dormitory on Jan. 11. Kim was 25.
Thursday marked one week since the bereaved family members, who had previously issued their calls for an investigation in front of the Tangjeong complex in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, assumed their positions in front of the head office in Seoul. Kim’s older sister Jeong, 28, said, “We came to Seoul after the people at the Tangjeong complex told us, ‘It is out of our hands now, go tell the head office,’ but nobody will meet with us.”
Samsung positioned employees to physically prevent Kim’s family members from entering the building. The same scene has been repeated for a full week, with dozens of men positioned at the entrance to the main building to block the bereaved family members.
Shockingly, the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) has also been silent to their demands for an investigation. On Feb. 28, the 49th day since Kim’s death, the ministry notified them of a decision not to disclose Samsung Electronics’ employment regulations, explaining that they were Samsung’s “trade secrets.”
This decision has been called unprecedented even by those within MOEL.
“The employment regulations are a document that is made well-known to all workers, clearly specifying their working conditions and so forth,” said a MOEL official. “I cannot fathom how this could be a trade secret.”
“In my eight years as a labor attorney, I have never seen the Ministry of Employment and Labor refuse to disclose a company’s employment regulations,” said Lee Jeong-ran, a labor attorney with the group Banollim, a civic organization that advocates for the health and human rights of workers in the semiconductor industry. “The decision not to disclose the regulations is evidence that the Ministry of Employment and Labor is assigning itself the role of Samsung’s puppet,” Lee added.
Samsung Electronics stated, “[The employment regulations] are designated internally as something to be kept confidential from the outside.”
MOEL also said that no data exists on suicides and declined to disclose the findings of Kim Ju-hyeon’s special health evaluation, on the grounds that it was “under investigation.”
Kim, who began work as an equipment engineer on Samsung Electronics’ LCD color filter production line in January 2010, jumped to his death from the 13th floor of his dormitory. He had been suffering from stress due to workdays lasting over 12 hours, as well as a skin disease of unknown cause. Fifty days after his death, no funeral has yet been held.
Banollim and other groups that have battled Samsung Electronics over occupational leukemia cases designated the third week of March as “memorial week for workers who have died from semiconductor and electronics industry accidents.” They plan to hold rallies during the week at sites such as Seoul Station and the area near the main offices of Samsung.