Samsung’s War at Home, by Cam Simpson, Technology, Bloomberg’s Week
Just inside his single-story home, built of concrete blocks and coated in turquoise paint, Hwang Sang-ki, a 58-year-old Korean taxi driver, sits on a floor mat. He’s clasping a small handbag, once bright white and now dull after years on a shelf. He pulls out a snapshot of 13 smiling young women, all co-workers at Samsung Electronics (005930:KS), off-duty and posing in three rows, each embracing or leaning into the other. The leaves of a tree behind them are turning golden in the autumn chill.
‘Here,’ says Hwang, pointing to two women in the center of the group. Both had the same job at the same semiconductor factory, on the same line, standing side by side at the same workstation, dipping computer chips into the same vat of chemicals. Both got a particularly aggressive form of the blood cancer known as acute myeloid leukemia. One was his daughter, Yu-mi. In South Korea, only about 3 out of every 100,000 people die of leukemia. ‘They worked together, and they died,’ says Hwang. The snapshot is among a few private memories Hwang keeps of his late daughter.
The story of the two women, and dozens of Samsung workers with leukemia and other rare cancers, is now a very public one in South Korea. In February and March, Koreans could see two movies depicting the seven-year battle led by the Hwangs and other families against Korea’s biggest and most influential corporation. . . .