A Samsung Electronics booth at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona in February. (Reuters/Yonhap News)
Major news outlets around the world are reporting on Samsung Electronics’ preliminary indictment by a French court.
In a July 4 article titled “Samsung faces charges in France over alleged labour violations,” the Financial Times wrote that Samsung, which it identified as the “world’s largest maker of microchips and smartphones,” was facing criticism from civic groups for “having dangerous working conditions at its Asian factories.” Reuters also reported on the issue the same day in its French-language edition. In its report, it quoted William Bourdon – founder of Sherpa, one of the civic groups accusing Samsung – as saying, “In this era when the shared responsibility of multinational corporations for the fate of global village is growing [. . .] we must be able to punish instances where [companies] make ethical statements simply to deceive consumers, and then condone actual activities that are fully in violation of them.”
The French news agency AFP published a July 3 article titled “Samsung faces deceptive advertising charges in France over ethics pledge: NGOs.” Noting that Samsung was facing charges of “deceptive marketing over its corporate ethics pledges,” the article quoted groups as saying, “This is the first time in France that it was recognized that corporate ethics pledges may be considered marketing practices that are binding on a firm.” AFP went on to describe violations of labor rights at Samsung’s overseas factories, stating that workers at factories in Vietnam and China were facing low wages and intensive labor conditions while exposed to harmful chemicals without adequate means of protection.
Samsung Electronics’ preliminary indictment was also covered by the French public radio network Inter, the state-run television network France 24, Russia’s government-run Sputnik News, and the Swiss economic newspaper L’AGEFI. Inter wrote, “Samsung, a company with ambitions of becoming one of the world’s only ‘ethical corporations,’ is facing trial for deceiving consumers.” France 24 reported on the deaths of workers from occupational diseases at factories in South Korea and Vietnam, quoting claims from civic groups that child labor was employed at a factory subcontracting for Samsung in Shenyang and in the extraction of cobalt for use in Samsung batteries. Sputnik stated that the poor working conditions at Samsung were unlikely to meet the basic conditions for human dignity.
The Financial Times and AFP reported that Samsung had not responded to the French court’s decision beyond issuing a statement that it “respects local laws and labor rights.”
In June 2018, the French civic groups Sherpa and ActionAid France lodged complaints against Samsung France and South Korean headquarters, accusing Samsung of violating basic worker rights and engaging in unethical practices including forced labor and wage exploitation. The preliminary indictment decision by a local Paris court was made after summoning an official from Samsung France in April to hear opinions.
By Ock Kee-won, staff reporter
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