S. Korean film highlights claims of leukaemia deaths at Samsung plants
Film makers defy conglomerate's power and 'timorous' Korean media
- Justin McCurry for The Guardian
- February 6, 2014
When his teenage daughter Yu-mi landed a job at the electronics company Samsung, Hwang Sang-ki was bursting with pride. Yu-mi would bring in enough money to support her struggling family and, she was hoping, it would pay her younger brother's way through university.
But in 2007, five years after she began work at one of the semiconductor plants of the South Korean consumer electronics firm, Yu-mi died, on the back seat of her father's taxi as he rushed her to hospital.
The 23-year-old had been diagnosed with a rare form of acute leukaemia 20 months earlier, a disease her father insists was caused by her exposure to hazardous chemicals at the Samsung plant in the city of Suwon.
Hwang's quest to prove his daughter died from a workplace-related illness has pitted him against the world's biggest technology company and a largely timorous South Korean media.
"I didn't believe Samsung when they told me Yu-mi's illness could not have been caused by her daily contact with those chemicals," said Hwang, whose suspicions were aroused when he learned that a colleague of his daughter had died from the same illness. "I talked to experts and took my findings to newspapers, TV companies and magazines, but they all said the same thing, 'you can't possibly win a fight with Samsung'."
But on Thursday the silence surrounding the case of Yu-mi, and dozens of others who claim they fell ill after working at Samsung plants, will be pierced by the nationwide release of a fictional film inspired by Hwang's decade-long search for the truth.
The film, Another Promise, is the first South Korean movie to have been funded entirely by private donations and crowd funding.
About 7,000 people donated a quarter of the film's total budget in exchange for cinema tickets or DVDs, while the rest of the funds came from other private investments and the filmmakers themselves.
To avoid possible legal action the film's producers altered its original title from Another Family – a well known Samsung advertising slogan – while the on-screen electronics company is called Jinsung.
The director, Kim Tae-yun, said he was inspired to make the film after reading a newspaper article about Yu-mi's case.
"Friends told me not to do it, that it would be dangerous for my career," he said. "But I'm not the one doing the fighting here – the families are. I don't care if I'm tackling controversial or sensitive subjects, because there shouldn't be any taboo subjects for film-makers."
Source: The Guardian