The Semiconductor. It's the backbone of the digital era. CPU in PC, memory chip in cell phone and even display unit in TV, semiconductors invisibly sustain our daily lives from inside these devices. Yet we lack knowledge about the semiconductor in terms of a manufacturing process that results in enormous human cost and sacrifice.
On January 25th 2013, Samsung Electronics, the world largest semiconductor manufacturer reported a record high $187.9 billion in revenue along with $22.25 billion in operating profit. Beneath the shadow of these impressive figures, however, there are people who suffer from incurable diseases. They are semiconductor workers from Samsung Electronics in South Korea. According to Banolim, a social activist group that has been supporting these workers since 2007, 265 former workers of Samsung Electronics have informed the group of their terminal diseases which include cancer, leukemia, and brain tumors. So far 104 of them have died. Most of these victims have never doubted that their diseases are work related. Several years ago, in fact, a number of victims began to investigate the cause of their illnesses and realized that the diseases are closely related to the chemicals they handled at the factory. From then on, victims’ struggle against Samsung began.
As the affray related to these issues continues, victims have to deal with not only the company but another hostile organization, COMWEL, Korean Workers’ Compensation & Welfare Service. Because a labour union for Samsung workers is disallowed by corporate fiat, these victims have to apply to COMWEL for proper compensation from the company. However, this government agency, which is supposed to protect laborers and provide them with legal services, accuses the victims for lacking prosecutorial evidence and summarily rejects their requests. This situation leads victims to institute lawsuits against COMWEL, but they have to fight against COMWEL, which is supported by Samsung’s legal team. The indifference of the general public together with bias media bias victims amid the turmoil.