S. Korean court says worker's rare disease linked to Samsung

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South Korea's Supreme Court said a former worker in a Samsung LCD factory who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis should be recognized as having an occupationally caused disease, overturning lower court verdicts that held a lack of evidence against the worker.

In a milestone decision that could aid other sickened tech workers struggling to prove the origin of their diseases, the Supreme Court ruled there was a significant link between Lee Hee-jin's disease and workplace hazards and her working conditions.

Lower courts had denied her claim, partly because no records of her workplace conditions were publicly available. The Labor Ministry and Samsung refused to disclose them when a lower court requested the information, citing trade secrets.

In its ruling Tuesday, the court said the lack of evidence, resulting from Samsung's refusal to provide the information and an inadequate investigation by the government, should not be held against the sickened worker.

Instead, it said, such special circumstances should be considered in favor of the worker.

Lee, 33, began to work at a Samsung LCD factory in Cheonan, south of Seoul, in 2002 when she was a high school senior. She evaluated nearly one hundred display panels per hour on a conveyor belt, looking for defective panels and wiping them with isopropyl alcohol. She worked next to assembly lines that used other chemicals.

Three years after she joined Samsung Electronics, she first reported the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a rare disease that affects the central nervous system. The average age of reporting multiple sclerosis in South Korea is 38. She left Samsung in 2007.

Lee first filed a claim in 2010 with a government agency, which denied her request for compensation. She took her case to the courts and lost twice before Tuesday's victory.

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