Hankook Ruled Liable for Employee Deaths
A provincial court in Korea has found factory chiefs and senior researchers of Hankook Tire guilty failing to prevent a series of work related deaths. The Korea Times reports that on August 14 the Daejeon District Court sentenced a factory chief, identified as Lee, 52, to eight months imprisonment, which was suspended for two years, and fined him three million won (£1.46 million). Another factory manager, Jung, 47, was given six months in prison, suspended for two years, plus a fine of two million won. The two men worked at Hankook’s Daejeon and Geumsan factories, where 14 workers died within 17 months.
Two senior officials of its research division were also fined four million won each. Three executives from both Hankook and its subcontractors were also fined between 500,000 and four million won. Hankook Tire found itself on the receiving end of a ten million won fine.
Between May 2006 and September 2007, seven workers at Hankook Tire factories died suddenly without any clearly identifiable reason. Relatives and co-workers claim the primary factor behind the deaths was toxic chemicals used during the production process, allegations the company denied. Following the incidents, however, Daejeon regional labour office inspected the workplaces and found that executives had covered up more than 183 industrial accidents since 2005. Thousands of illegal practices that could jeopardise employee health were also discovered.
“This case stemmed from a series of sudden deaths and cancers inflicted upon workers. It’s difficult to understand that the deaths took place even after the accused fulfilled their supervisory duties,” said presiding judge Kang Do-rye in the ruling. Following the ruling, a Hankook spokesman said, “Following the accidents, our working conditions have notably been upgraded. We will decide whether to appeal the ruling after reviewing the court statement.”