South Korean electronics giant Samsung has officially apologized over the illnesses and deaths of some of its factory workers. In a public statement, Samsung Electronics CEO Kwon Oh-hyun said "several workers at our production facilities suffered from leukemia and other incurable diseases, which also lead to some deaths." Kwon said Samsung would make "appropriate compensation to those who were affected and their families," after activist groups claimed hazardous working environments caused some employees to contract lethal diseases. "We should have settled the issue earlier, and we are deeply heartbroken that we failed to do so and express our deep apology."
Samsung is embroiled in a health controversy over its potentially dangerous work environments. In 2011, a Seoul administrative court said there was a high probability that Hwang Yu-mi, who died from leukemia in 2007, contracted the disease after coming in contact with dangerous chemicals at a Samsung plant in Suwon. Hwang was one of a number of employees who fell ill after working at a Samsung plant: a documentary released last month uncovered 56 cases of leukemia and other blood cancers among Samsung workers.
A Seoul court said there was a high probability dangerous chemicals caused Hwang Yu-mi's death
The Korean company was accused of trying to use its considerable influence in its home country to downplay health concerns. Leaked text messages suggest Samsung allegedly pressured news publications from covering a movie about Hwang, called Another Promise. Last month, Bloomberg Businessweek used the launch of Samsung's Galaxy S5 smartphone to tell Hwang's story, along with the story of her colleague Lee Suk-yeong. Lee, who worked alongside Hwang in Suwon, also died from leukemia.