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South Korean phone giant under pressure over cancer deaths

Samsung Electronics was facing greater pressure than ever Tuesday to compensate workers who claim they have fallen ill due to toxin and radiation-exposure at its plants after the announcement of the death of an employee who had been undergoing leukemia treatment. Lee Beom-woo had only been hospitalized a month earlier, after 23 years working at the global smartphone leader's Onyang factory in South Chungcheong Province. There have now been 150 such cases across Samsung facilities according to a group negotiating compensation for workers and their families – which also announced Lee's passing. Supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry, or SHARPS, claims the deaths and worker illnesses have been repeatedly caused by exposure to the toxins and radiation at Samsung's semiconductor plants. A statement on Tuesday from SHARPS alleged that "Samsung's semiconductor production line in Onyang is a place where hazardous factors linked to leukemia, such as epoxy resin and radiation machineries, exist." "Our research shows there were 40 cases of environment-related diseases at Samsung's Onyang facility, including 12 workers suffering from lymphatic system-related illnesses," the release went on, also pointing to a 2012 study by the Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute.

The latest case came after May's official apology by Samsung for failing to bring about a solution sooner after several years of efforts by victims and their families – the issue gained prominence when the Korean language movie "Another Promise" depicted the death of a 23-year-old former Samsung employee in 2007.

The company also promised compensation as part of May's breakthrough but is yet to agree the details, or concede a direct link between illness and its factories.

An official company statement from Samsung on Tuesday offered condolences and prayers "for the bliss of the dead."

As well as calling for adequate compensation, SHARPS is demanding an independent investigation of Samsung facilities but so far talks remain ongoing.

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