Samsung walks fine line in addressing cancers linked to building chips

The South Korean tech company’s vice chairman said leaders ‘feel regret’ about illnesses, but wouldn’t confirm the link between chemicals used in Samsung employees’ work and cancer.

A Samsung executive on Wednesday expressed remorse that workers who build the tech giant’s chips have been stricken with cancer, but the South Korean company wouldn’t confirm that their work was the actual cause of their illness. “We feel regret that a solution for this delicate matter has not been found in a timely manner, and we would like to use this opportunity to express our sincerest apology to the affected people,” Samsung vice chairman Kwon Oh-hyun said in a statement emailed to the Associated Press and other news outlets. Oh-hyun said Samsung would compensate families of affected workers. The AP story notes, “Samsung said the apology does not mean it concedes a link between the chemicals used in its chip factories and cancer and other diseases.” One has to wonder exactly what Oh-hyun is apologizing for, then. Families of sickened workers and activists have been working for seven years to force the company into action. Their cause was spurred by the death of a 23-year-old employee, Hwang Yu-mi, who became afflicted with leukemia. Several factors have seemingly pressured Samsung to make its statement now. A donor-funded movie about Yu-mi’s illness was released last year, bringing considerably more public attention to the possible link between chip building and cancer. Last month, an opposition party lawmaker urged the South Korean government to force Samsung to compensate families of sickened workers. Several recent lawsuits have ruled in favor of workers. (In South Korea, payments in suits of that nature actually come from a government agency funded through corporate levies.) Activists are considering Samsung’s statement a victory, though they’re viewing it as the start of a discussion, not the end of it.


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