There’s No Cure, There’s No Answer

Samsung has issues at its South Korean factories:

Hwang Sang-ki, a 58-year-old Korean taxi driver, sits on a floor mat. He’s clasping a small handbag, once bright white and now dull after years on a shelf. He pulls out a snapshot of 13 smiling young women, all co-workers at Samsung Electronics, off-duty and posing in three rows, each embracing or leaning into the other. The leaves of a tree behind them are turning golden in the autumn chill.

“Here,” says Hwang, pointing to two women in the center of the group. Both had the same job at the same semiconductor factory, on the same line, standing side by side at the same workstation, dipping computer chips into the same vat of chemicals. Both got a particularly aggressive form of the blood cancer known as acute myeloid leukemia. One was his daughter, Yu-mi. In South Korea, only about 3 out of every 100,000 people die of leukemia. “They worked together, and they died,” says Hwang. The snapshot is among a few private memories Hwang keeps of his late daughter.

On the bright side, Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 is water-resistant and has the fastest smartphone processor on the market.


20 replies
  1. 1
    c u n d gulag says:

    Eventually, unregulated Capitalism will destroy itself.

    But not before taking most of us, and destroying us.

  2. 2
    Belafon says:

    Sounds like the girls who painted watches here – I forget what they were called.

  3. 3
    Starfish says:

    The Radium Girls?

  4. 4
    Paul in KY says:

    Nothing worse than burying a child. That poor man.

    I hope things get better for Korean workers, for all workers in this world.

  5. 5
    NotMax says:


    Radium Girls.

    As for electronics, extended exposure to rare earth elements, dust and poor ventilation have been a constant hazard in manufacturing. Check back several years to the horrendous illness, disability and death rate among workers at plasma TV plants.

  6. 6
    MomSense says:

    I feel like we all have so much blood on our hands.

  7. 7
    liberal says:

    Of course it’s terrible industrial hygiene if they’re not properly protected.

    But anecdata does not make something statistically significant.

  8. 8
    Rex Everything says:

    “There’s no cure, there’s no answer”? I don’t know … maybe we could at least discuss not using the fucking things?

    Humanity got along alright before the dawn of the Samsung Galaxy S5. Really!

    Sometimes it seems like, if our generation had been adults in 1960, we’d never have seen our way to giving up thalidomide.

  9. 9
    evolved beyond the fist mistermix says:

    @Rex Everything: It’s a lyric from a Joe Jackson song

    Everything gives you cancer
    There’s no cure, there’s no answer

    It’s a happy little ditty.

    Maybe we could discuss manufacturing these things responsibly in factories that don’t cause suicide clusters and leukemia.

  10. 10
    Rex Everything says:

    @evolved beyond the fist mistermix: Yes, I know it’s a Joe Jackson song. I assume you used it as a headline because you found it relevant.

    Discuss manufacturing all you want, but you’re not going to affect the actual situation one bit until you’re willing to boycott the wonder gadgets.

  11. 11
    Paul in KY says:

    @Rex Everything: I have a flip phone (a Sanyo). Good enough for me. I don’t want to be internet connected 24/7.

  12. 12
    Pen says:

    @Rex Everything: I hate to say it but product boycotts are like recycling. Unless everyone does it, and they won’t, it is, at best, a feel-good way for the morally righteous to feel like they’re actually doing something.

    It’s the physical version of a twitter hashtag campaign.

  13. 13
    Rex Everything says:

    @Pen: Bullshit. When the threat of a boycott is credible it’s tremendously effective. The first step toward a credible threat is widespread discussion of boycott as a possible action.

    Comments & attitudes like yours discourage discussion. Why would you want to do that, Pen?

    A Twitter hashtag campaign that urged boycotts would be a great thing! Because the goal of it would clearly be something beyond Twitter. The problem with hashtag campaigns is that you click and you’re done. With this, that wouldn’t be the case; the whole point of the campaign would be real-world action.

  14. 14
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Rex Everything:

    “There’s no cure, there’s no answer”? I don’t know … maybe we could at least discuss not using the fucking things?

    You realize the irony of using a website to advise people to stop using computers, right? It’s not just smartphones — Mr. Hwang’s daughter got sick before smartphones were much of a thing.

  15. 15
    Pen says:

    @Rex Everything: Name ONE time that your proposed action has led to a systemic change or resulted in a product not being made.

    I’m all for effecting change, but crap like this pisses me off the same way as people saying “I’ll pray for you” when someone gets sick.

  16. 16

    Was gonna write something snarky about the invisble hand of the free market, too heartbreaking.

    As long as the fuckers can continue to get away with it and not be held accountable, count on this being repeated anywhere these materials are used, anywhere these products are made.

  17. 17

    Having done tooling and setup for factories in Korea back in the 90s, I’d rather take my chances in one of them than any factory in the US, where inspections are non-existent and the fine for killing a worker ranges in the high four figures.

    Korea at least tries to pretend like the worker matters.

  18. 18
    LongHairedWeirdo says:


    Wow, I was thinking that my own, singular choice of smartphone would make or break the market, but now that you’ve said something, I realize that it’s only one purchase out of many thousands. Why, why did I not realize this before reading your wisdom? Oh, alas, until this moment, I harbored dreams that an individual boycott could change the entire world! I bet you’re also going to tell me that the reason I don’t get Easter candy any more is not that I’m a grown-up, but that there *is* no magical bunny who delivers candy on Easter!

    One might make a choice from one’s morals, without having to feel it will be felt throughout the cosmos.

  19. 19
    Rex Everything says:


    Name ONE time that your proposed action has led to a systemic change

    Here’s one you may have heard of: product boycotts contributed to systemic change in South Africa.

    or resulted in a product not being made.

    Our goal would not be for a product “not being made”; it would be for it to be made without tremendous human suffering.

    Maybe, not being made in an abusive factory. Remember how the mere discussion of a product boycott led to Chik-Fil-As not being made in Chicago?

    Lastly, I think the fact that a discussion like this “pisses you off” is fuckin’ weird.

  20. 20


    You realize the irony of using a website to advise people to stop using computers, right?

    No. No, I don’t.

    You know, I even ate chicken from the supermarket while boycotting Chik-Fil-A.

    I’m a wild card!!

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