On the day Samsung is releasing the Galaxy S5, its biggest product launch of the year, Bloomberg Businessweek has published an extensive report highlighting past health issues at the company's semiconductor plants in Korea. It tells the story of Hwang Yu-mi, a Samsung worker who died from an aggressive form of Leukemia, and the impact her death had on her family. Hwang worked in a semiconductor plant dealing with carcinogenic materials, and a second employee, Lee Suk-yeong, who worked alongside her also developed the same form of Leukemia. Their deaths have been the subject of in-depth coverage in Korea, and have also been cited by western media, but Businessweek's article only goes to highlight further the increasing scrutiny Samsung is facing as it strengthens its stranglehold on the global electronics market.
As Businessweek points out, Korea recently saw the release of a "thinly veiled" movie about Hwang and Samsung, in which for legal reasons the young woman works at a company named "Jinsung." The movie saw Samsung in the headlines for the wrong reasons again, as the company was accused of pressuring news publications to not cover the film. Samsung wields an incredible level of influence in Korea, with revenues equalling 16 percent of the country's GDP.
Activists have uncovered 58 cancer cases at Samsung plants
Provoked by the release of a documentary called Empire of Shame, Businessweek dives into the movement started by Hwang's father to draw attention to the health controversy. As the documentary highlights, a further 56 cases of leukemia and other blood-related cancers have been uncovered in Samsung plants. Activists believe that the use of carcinogenic materials in the factories is to blame for these cases, and want Samsung to take responsibility.
These accusations are by no means buried, and independent blogs like Stop Samsung do everything in their power to bring alleged infractions to the attention of the masses. As the company continues on its march towards global dominance, this scrutiny will only propagate, and Samsung will find it far harder to silence Businessweek and the rest of the worldwide media than publications closer to home.