Samsung Sues South Korea Over Working Conditions Report

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Samsung Electronics is suing the government of South Korea over a chip factory working conditions report that Seoul said will publicize later this spring, having been petitioned to do so by local activists and media outlets. The company moved to stop the disclosure of the report on Monday, having filed a complaint with the Central Administrative Appeals Commission and a separate appeal with the Suwon District Court. Samsung officially confirmed the move several days later, arguing that the report would expose its trade secrets such as proprietary equipment and materials used by its semiconductor manufacturing facilities.

Samsung and every other company operating in the Far Eastern country that deals with potentially dangerous chemicals are required to provide competent government organizations with regular reports on the working conditions of their employees. Such reports aren't private by default but South Korean nationals and organizations are able to petition for their publication, after which Seoul is required to seek an opinion on the matter from the firm whose report was requested to be publicized. The ultimate decision on whether to divulge the contents of any particular report is the government's to make, with the only legal requirement for reaching it being consulting independent experts in relevant fields while deliberating on any given petition. The lawsuit Samsung filed targets the Ministry of Employment and Labor that decided to publish its report earlier this year, having said doing so will allow employees to prove work-related illnesses more easily.

Samsung argues doing so is "reckless," especially at a time when China is trying to compete with the company's semiconductor business which the government officially considers part of "national core technologies." The company recently said it isn't worried about China's chip ambitions in the near-term because of the large technological gap between the two. The original request seeking the publication of the working conditions report was filed by a family of a former Samsung employee who worked at one of the company's factories and died in 2014 after being diagnosed with leukemia which was alleged to have been caused by an industrial accident or prolonged exposure to certain chemicals. The dispute between Samsung and Seoul is unlikely to be resolved before late summer.

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