Top court recognizes industrial accident claim by ailing ex-Samsung worker

SEOUL-- South Korea's top court overturned lower courts' verdicts and ruled Tuesday in favor of a former Samsung Electronics Co. worker seeking an industrial accident claim for his rare neurological disorder.

A 33-year-old man surnamed Lee filed a suit against the tech giant in 2011 requesting legal acknowledgment of the multiple sclerosis he had developed over the years of working at a Samsung factory as an industrial accident.

His claim was turned down by two lower courts, which both cited a lack of evidence to prove his workplace, the liquid crystal display (LCD) panel production line in Cheonan, south of Seoul, had caused the disease.

The Supreme Court quashed the judgments by the lower courts and sent back the case to the appeals court to be retried.

The top court said, "It is highly probable that the causality of Lee's illness and its aggravation may well be acknowledged in relation to his work."

It noted that Samsung's repeated refusal to disclose details on toxic substances at its production facility has hindered the plaintiff's efforts to substantiate his argument and said this should be taken into account.

The court also said Lee comes from a family with no such medical history and that he was diagnosed with the incurable disease at the age of 21, far younger than the average of 38.

Lee, who worked there from 2002 to 2007, was tasked with checking the image quality of the display panels. In 2003, he started having conjunctivitis and nerve dysfunction then had chest pains and joint problems. He has argued he was exposed to electromagnetic waves and other harmful chemicals for over 12 hours a day.

Lee's case is the first that the country's top court has recognized such a claim as an industrial accident. Two other former Samsung production workers with the same disease were accepted by lower courts as industrial victims in May and July, respectively, with another pending an assessment result from the state compensation and welfare agency.

So far, a total of 21 workers have won legal battles for the acknowledgment as victims of industrial accidents, according to court records. They had mostly worked at semiconductor and LCD production lines, and have suffered from leukemia, breast cancer, brain tumors and other neurological disorders.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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