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Advocacy group accepts Samsung's offer for leukemia talks
By Lee Minji
SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- An advocacy group for former employees of Samsung Electronics Co. who allegedly suffered from leukemia and other illnesses while working on chip-making lines accepted the company's proposal for compensation talks Tuesday, opening the way for resolving the drawn-out dispute.

   Samsung Electronics has been at loggerheads with the families of the alleged victims of leukemia and other workplace diseases for the past six years. Following the deaths of young semiconductor workers who were diagnosed with diseases such as leukemia, Samsung has been embroiled in a heated controversy over an alleged link between harmful chemicals in its chip plants and such illnesses.

   The Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry (SHARPS), the organization that represents the workers and family members involved in the case, said in a statement, "We formally accept Samsung's proposal to start negotiations on compensation."

   "SHARPS will be committed to resolving and preventing the occupational disease issue and hopes Samsung Electronics will also take a responsible stance in the talks," it said after holding a press conference in front of Samsung Electronics' Seoul office.

   Workers, family members and civic organizations have challenged the company through press conferences, litigation and books that raise awareness on the alleged link.

   In response, Samsung Electronics has refuted that epidemiological surveys show a meaningful correlation between the development of diseases and working in its plants.

   In July 2011, the company even commissioned U.S. consulting firm Environ International Corp. to probe into several cases and announced no link was found between cancer and its chip plants.

   The two sides, however, have been moving to resolve the issue that shed light on working circumstances at the chip giant's local plants.

   In 2011, Samsung Electronics launched a program that offers 10 years of aid for employees who are diagnosed with cancer within three years after leaving their jobs at the company's chip and liquid-crystal display plants.

   Officials at Samsung Electronics and SHARPS are expected to begin working-level talks in the coming months. An official at SHARPS said the organization plans to consult with family members of the workers ahead of making further decisions.

   A total of 160 alleged victims were reported regarding the Samsung case, including 60 deaths, as of the end of last year, according to SHARPS.

Members of SHARPS hold a press conference in front of Samsung Electronics Co.'s Seoul office on Jan. 22, 2013. (Yonhap)