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(LEAD) Samsung's talks on leukemia victims again stalled

2014/04/16 14:22

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co. on Wednesday rejected blame for ongoing confusion on talks over the deaths of workers from diseases possibly linked to workings conditions at its semiconductor plants, claiming an about-face by victims' family members and their advocates.

"We are extremely puzzled by the reaction from the activist group that had given us the proposals (about the talks)," a high-level official from Samsung Group said, demanding that he remain anonymous.

The remark came a day after the Protector of Health and Human Rights of Semiconductor Workers, or SHARP, an activist group whose members include the victims' families, took issue with having a third party mediate the talks.

SHARP, together with Rep. Sim Sang-jung of the minor opposition Justice Party, last week had issued a joint statement demanding that the the country's top tech firm come to the negotiation table to discuss responsibility and compensation for the victims who are suffering or have died from leukemia and other illnesses. Family members and activists say that the diseases were caused by exposure to deadly chemicals at Samsung's semiconductor plants.

The statement included proposals on how the talks should proceed, including a mediation by third parties on compensation.

In response to the proposals, Samsung said Monday that it is "reviewing" them and would soon announce its position.

SHARP, however, said Tuesday it does not want a third party involved and demanded the negotiation be held directly between Samsung and the group.

"We later realized that the proposals sent to Samsung included a clause that mentioned third parties," said Lim Ja-yoon, an official from SHARP. "However, the clause was included by lawmaker Sim without our consensus."

   "SHARP's claim makes it look as if Samsung is avoiding the talks by abruptly changing the conditions," the comany official said. "The proposal made last week (by Sim and SHARP) evidently stated that there should be a third party at the table."

   Local advocacy groups have been urging Samsung to take responsibility and make due compensation after Hwang Yu-mi, an employee at Samsung's chip-making facilities in Giheung, just south of Seoul, died from leukemia in 2007.

Despite Samsung and SHARP having exchanged their views over the past years, the two sides failed to find a common ground, especially as they argued over the legitimacy of the advocacy group as a negotiation partner.

While Samsung has been arguing that SHARP should obtain the power of attorney from all related victims in order to make itself a legitimate negotiation party, the group claims the company's intent behind such demand is to undermine SHARP's cohesiveness.

The controversy over the dead Samsung workers was renewed earlier this year after a low-budget movie based on Hwang, titled "Another Promise," was released.

Samsung responded through its official blog in a personal post written by a communications official who said his daughter had asked whether the allegations were true and claimed that the company is being unjustly vilified as an evil group.

colin@yna.co.kr

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