Samsung doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to safe worker conditions, and has even lied about those conditions. Their factories have been shown to not comply with basic safety measures, and the company has partnered with companies that employ children, and those children have faced hazardous situations. Samsung’s workers are exposed to unsafe chemicals, without knowing the health implications, or even how they can protect themselves. Those hazards not only harm the health of their workers, but also hurt their children. A former Samsung Semiconductor employee has shared her painful story of cancer, and a child born with birth defects that will last him for his entire life. You can read her woeful tale on The Huffington Post.
Kim Hee-eun worked at Samsung from 1991 to 1998. She worked 12 hour shifts when she started, with few breaks, and lived in small dormitories on site with other female workers. She worked with hazardous and toxic chemicals, and wasn’t properly informed of their effect or given the proper safety equipment. The work was tough, and she was exhausted from working long hours, but the long term health effects overshadow any of the discomfort she experienced working.
Hee-eun’s son, Gunoo, was born in 1999, just after she had left Samsung. Young Gunoo’s health issues were apparent when he was just an infant. His intestines were so badly twisted that his stomach bloated. He couldn’t pass any solid waste. Doctors did everything they could, which included many surgeries. Eventually, they were forced to do something unprecidented, they removed Gunoo’s entire large intestine. He’d never be able to live a normal life without this vital organ. Gunoo is now 15, and his life is not without suffering, and it may never be.
Without knowing the health implications of working at Samsung, Hee-eun assumed that Gunoo’s health issues were coincidental. However, after speaking with her former coworkers, she found that many of them have had horrific health issues, and their children have been born with birth defects as well, if they didn’t have miscarriages. Hee-eun and Gunoo weren’t alone, two generations, those who worked for Samsung and the offspring of those workers, had been harmed by the dangerous conditions at Samsung during the production of semiconductors. Hee-eun herself wasn’t immune to the toxic chemicals she was exposed to, she currently has thyroid cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, and epithelial cancer. She’s 42.
You can read more about Hee-eun’s heartbreaking story over on The Huffington Post. Samsung is still in the business of creating semiconductors, and have even been contracted to manufacturer the processors Apple designed for their iPhones, although it appears as though Apple has instead chosen to use TSMC for their latest processors. Samsung has improved conditions at their factories since Hee-eun was an employee there, but the damage was already done to two generations, potentially more. Samsung’s lax safety regulations could be bringing harm to millions of workers and their children. We use our electronics every day, but how often do we stop to think about the true cost of manufacturing them?