Lowdown on Samsung’s workplace reports on chip plants
[THE INVESTOR] Over the past few weeks, Samsung Electronics has been desperately trying to prevent the disclosure of environmental assessment reports on its chip factories before the April 20 deadline set by the Ministry of Employment and Labor.
In February, the Daejeon High Court ordered the Korean tech giant to release the reports on its manufacturing lines, including in Pyeongtaek, Giheung and Hwaseong, overturning the previous ruling of a lower court.
Samsung, however, has been fiercely refusing to publicize the reports on grounds that details in the documents include crucial information, which, if leaked to rivals, could undermine its competitiveness and damage the nation’s semiconductor industry.
Currently, it is taking a three-pronged approach to respond to the issue. The company filed a separate administrative suit at the Suwon District Court on March 3, and also approached the Central Administrative Appeals Commission on April 2, both of which are aimed at nullifying the Labor Ministry’s order.
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Following this, on April 9 it requested the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy to review if the reports contain key information on technologies that should not be disclosed in national interests.
So far, there are 64 types of technologies designated as “key national technologies,” which are banned from being revealed to foreign companies or organizations. They include DRAM chips and telecommunications facilities.
The Trade Ministry’s decision does not have a binding force to stop the disclosure, but it can be utilized as a reference in courts.
The ministry is scheduled to convene the second meeting of a 12-member committee, consisting of researchers, experts and academicians, on April 17 to decide if the information included in the reports fall into the category of key national technologies.
The Suwon court held a hearing on April 13, but put off its decision, adjourning the hearing to this week.
The appeals commission, meanwhile, is scheduled to decide on April 17 whether there should be a stay on the order of the Labor Ministry. Industry watchers are of the opinion that the commission, an institute under the pro-labor state organization Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission, could dismiss Samsung’s request.
The present case dates back to 2014, when a former Samsung worker, surnamed Lee, died of leukemia after working for more than 20 years at its chip manufacturing lines.
The family members filed a petition at the Cheonan office of the Labor Ministry, and a suit at the Deajeon District Court in 2014 in order to make the reports public so that they can prove the disease was caused by exposure to toxic chemicals used at the lines.
The ministry’s local office then rejected the request, and the lower court also ruled against the family in the first trial.
Meanwhile, Samsung Display, a display-making subsidiary of the tech giant, has also asked the Trade Ministry to review its assessment reports, which too have been ordered to be made public.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)