SEOUL, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The controversy over a high incidence of serious illnesses among Samsung Electronics employees has taken a new turn with a recent court ruling here, signaling more legal headaches for the South Korean semiconductor giant.
Acknowledging for the first time a link between leukemia deaths of Samsung employees and their working conditions, the Seoul Administrative Court ordered Thursday the state-run welfare agency to pay compensation to families of two former employees who died of leukemia.
It is presumable that the two female employees who worked at a Samsung semiconductor factory were repeatedly exposed to harmful chemicals and radiation at work, though the exact cause of their deaths could not be determined, the court said in its decision.
The verdict reverses a 2009 decision by the Korea Workers' Compensation and Welfare Service, which rejected compensation claims by the families of the dead on the ground that the illnesses were unrelated to working at semiconductor plants.
The administrative court, however, ruled in favor of the welfare agency in cancer cases of three other workers, one of whom died, saying they could have been exposed to hazardous chemicals though perhaps not repeatedly.
A group of South Korean activists, who have demanded for years the world's second largest semiconductor manufacturer acknowledge and compensate for allegedly work-related employee illnesses and deaths, saw the landmark ruling as a partial victory.
"It is the victory for Banollim, victims and their families -- we have not backed down in the face of all attempts by Samsung to stop us," Banollim, a civic group advocating rights of semiconductor workers, said in a statement in reference to the court decision, "We hail the partial victory, but we can't stop here."