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Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 08:21 am PT (11:21 am ET)

Samsung issues apology to cancer-stricken semiconductor plant workers

South Korean electronics giant Samsung on Wednesday issued a formal apology to workers who fell ill from cancer after exposure to toxic chemicals at the company's semiconductor plants, saying that it should have acted more swiftly and would compensate the victims.

Another Promise still

A still from Another Promise


"We feel regret that a solution for this delicate matter has not been found in a timely manner, and we would like to use this opportunity to express our sincerest apology to the affected people," Samsung vice chairman and CEO Kwon Oh-hyun wrote in a statement provided to the Associated Press. In addition to his role as CEO, Kwon is directly responsible for Samsung's memory, system LSI, and LED units.

Samsung had been fighting against cancer claims from former workers for years, and the issue has blossomed into a major scandal in South Korea. Samsung is a key cog in the country's economy, with revenue equal to nearly 20 percent of South Korea's annual gross domestic product.

Earlier this year, Samsung was accused of strong-arming the Korean-language newspaper NewBizDaily to suppress coverage of the film "Another Promise," which is a fictionalized depiction of the ongoing battle between Samsung and the father of 23-year-old Hwang Yu-mi. Hwang contracted leukemia while working at a Samsung factory in Suwon and later succumbed to the disease.

"To fix the trust issue between Samsung Group and NewDaily, I plan to do my best," wrote Park Jung-kyu, president of the the NewBizDaily, in a misdirected text message. "I spoke with Park Jong-moon, who told me that Samsung was upset about the Another Promise article we published last month."

"After looking into the details, I have directly ordered to take the post down," Park added. Samsung vehemently denied ordering the story's removal, saying at the time that "the allegation concerning the article in question is clearly groundless."

According to the AP, Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee — whose father founded the conglomerate in 1938 — wants to resolve the cancer dispute before handing the company's reins to his son.