It is disappointing that the article raises both inaccurate and misleading claims about the use of trade secrets, while omitting up-to-date information that is pertinent to the matter.
While we have been clear that trade secrets have not been used to conceal information about toxins from workers, we do understand that this has been an ongoing concern for some workers.
This is why we reached agreement with the relevant parties – Banolim and the Family Committee – to resolve the concerns about trade secrets through the Ombudsman Committee, an independent third-party body which was announced publicly on Jan. 12, 2016.
The Committee has begun working toward a resolution since it began operation on Jun. 8, 2016. Thus it is unfortunate that the article is raising both inaccurate and misleading assertions when a plan is already in place to resolve this issue.
The article cites irrelevant cases to support its claims
In the case of Lee Hee-jin, the article claims that documents provided by Samsung “that could shed light on the case” were heavily redacted on the grounds of protecting trade secrets. This is not true. The reality is that Ms. Lee’s lawyer requested a 2013 document on occupational safety for a facility in Asan. Ms. Lee, however, was employed at a facility in Cheonan from 2002 to 2006. Thus the information contained in the document was irrelevant, both in regards to the location and period that Ms. Lee worked.
In the case of Sohn Kyung-joo, the article cited this example to claim that “cleanroom entrance logs, the sole way to prove his exposure to toxins at work, were destroyed after three months”. This is not true.
Firstly, entrance logs are irrelevant to the matter of toxin exposure. The cleanroom logs are kept for security purposes only. The data can only prove when someone was physically in the cleanroom and does not indicate the presence of or exposure to toxins.
Secondly, because entrance logs are for security purposes only and have no relation to the health and safety of workers, there are no regulations governing the preservation of this information. Samsung preserves a record of the logs as a voluntary measure only and considers three months to be an appropriate period of time of preservation of such information. Samsung strictly abides by all regulations concerning the saving of records.
Although this has been explained several times to the reporter, the article concluded that the cleanroom logs are the sole way to prove the employee’s exposure to toxins and implied that Samsung destroyed this data to intentionally conceal information.
The article inaccurately describes the compensation plan which contradicts publicly available information
The article states that the compensation plan proposed by Samsung last year covered “some medical fees and some income for workers”. This is not true. In accordance with the Mediation Committee’s guidelines, employees who meet the compensation criteria can receive full compensation for all medical expenses that have occurred since the diagnosis of their disease. All the details about this compensation plan are clearly outlined on the compensation website which can be accessed by the public.
Moreover, we would like to note that we are providing this support because it is the right thing to do – not because we have any legal or court-ordered mandate to do so.
All parties have already agreed to resolve issues around trade secrets through the independent , third-party Ombudsman Committee
Again, it is important to note that the method to resolve concerns around trade secrets has already been agreed upon by all three parties – Samsung, the Family Committee and Banolim.
The claim that Samsung blocked information necessary for employee illnesses to be classified as an industrial accident in order to receive worker compensation has been made by Banolim in the past.
Concerning this matter, we have communicated with the reporter on multiple occasions that the chemical information which Samsung has been unable to disclose is what our suppliers deemed as trade secret and refrained from disclosure. Suppliers are not required to reveal information deemed a trade secret, however they are required to disclose whether their products contain any toxic substance. This means that even if a supplier cites trade secrets to withhold information, the chemical product provided to Samsung has been certified as not containing any toxic substance.
This is also entrenched in Korea’s Industrial Safety and Health Act (41-2), which states that chemical substances that have been determined by the Ministry of Employment and Labor to cause serious illnesses to workers cannot be classified as trade secrets.
Despite these assurances, we understand that there have been ongoing concerns expressed by workers. This is why the three parties have agreed to resolve this issue together through the independent Ombudsman Committee.
Moreover, we have also taken the step to provide comprehensive support to former employees who apply for workers compensation by sharing any information which is required for a workers compensation claim. We have also been offering support through a certified labor lawyer to assist with administrative legal tasks.
To realize these mutually agreed-upon plans to resolve this matter, the independent Ombudsman Committee has since begun operation.
Since the article was first published by the AP on Aug.10, some of our corrections have now been reflected in the article. However, it is unfortunate that the original was widely picked up by media outlets around the world and still contains factual inaccuracies.