Posted : 2010-04-13 18:18
Updated : 2010-04-13 18:18

Samsung Takes on Leukemia Concern

Engineers at Samsung Electronics’ chip line check out products in a “clean room.” Samsung plans to fully open one of its chip lines Thursday for public scrutiny after a series of what civic groups claim are leukemiacaused deaths among workers there. / Korea Times File
By Kim Yoo-chul
Staff Reporter

Samsung Electronics, the world's top maker of memory chips, is in an all-out effort to water down suspicions surrounding the series of deaths of its factory workers, due to leukemia, as claimed by civic groups.

Samsung said it will fully open up one of its chip lines that produces dynamic random access memory (DRAM) memory chips called "Line 5" in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province on Thursday in a rare move to wipe out allegations that the deaths of workers are closely linked with the manufacturing processes.

"It won't be just a guided tour. We will fully open up the line, allowing reporters to come in. We will take further necessary measures if the situation persists," a senior Samsung spokesman Kim Nam-yong told The Korea Times, Tuesday.

Kim also added it will conduct a brief tour of the "S-Line," the line which is equipped with highly-advanced, 28-nanometer processing technology.

The decision came a few days after Samsung was grappling with criticism from civic groups that the recent death of a female worker largely due to leukemia was directly connected to her working conditions.

The 23-year-old Park Ji-yeon, who had worked at Samsung's chip plant in Onyang _ North Chungcheong Province _ since 2004, reportedly died of leukemia.

Her job was to check the status of chips with X-ray machines _ a process generating radiation, according to Samsung officials. Critics say leukemia-inducing substances were a result of the work.

They have consistently been saying that both male and female workers at chip lines are exposed to certain chemicals or substances that cause life-threatening illnesses such as leukemia.

Just after Kim's death, Samsung said it has been providing regular medical check-ups for all of the workers on the chip lines.

Kim's death was the eighth in the last ten years among Samsung workers related to leukemia.

Some 22 workers have tested positive to suffer from weakening hematogenous functions, officials say.

A recent government report warned that female workers at chip manufacturing plants are five times more likely to get non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, though the relation between the work and the disease has yet to be confirmed.

Moreover, the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) said the co-relation between the working conditions and leukemia was still unclear.

"The chances of males getting leukemia or cancer was lower than average, while among females, the chances of dying from the disease were 1.48 times higher than normal, which could be considered insignificant," it said.

Leukemia is a rare disease that strikes two or three people out of 100,000 in general conditions, reports say.

With the latest measures, Samsung Electronics announced it has just placed some physicians at its chip complex in Giheung and added the company will start a program once a week for workers who want to get proper medical check-ups.

"We will expand the programs and the budget to keep our workers healthy," Kim of Samsung said.
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