|▲ selected images from the website of HiteJinro|
In March last year, HiteJinto, the leading producer of alcholic beverages in South Korea announced a downsizing plan, citing the declining business profitability. Even though the company said that redundancies will be made only after receiving the voluntary retirement applications, all the workers were shaken with anxiety, if their names would be included on the company's black list.
A labor union representative only identified with the surname of Park(40 years old) had been busy with handling a plethora of mobile phone inquiries from the rank and file like "Is my name included on the company's downsizing list?", or "Am I going to be laid off this time?" On March 29 last year, Park collapsed unconscious of a brain hemorrhage at the labor union office located in the HiteJinro main office in Seocho District, southern Seoul, while he was talking with a labor union officer about the relief remedies for the union members facing redundancies. He still remains unconscious, having been in a coma for one year and eight months. The Korea Workers' Compensation and Welfare Service(KCOMWEL) disapproved the application for the industrial accident on the Park's case, adjudicating that "it is difficult to recognize a causal relationship between work and disease." Park's mother registered an online citizens' petition to the Blue House asking the presidential office to look into the case.
The petition states that "the company submitted a groundless fabricated testimony which impeded the adjudication for the recognition of a work-related accident, leading to the death of a good father of a household. (I am ardently) calling for an impartial investigation into HiteJinro which is a hideous company, making a mockery of and trampling on the laws of the Republic of Korea."
According to the contingent workers' counselling desk called 'Bisanggu' of the Justice Party on November 25, Park has been in a coma since March last year when he collapsed unconscious of a brain hemorrhage due to a heavy workload while performing his duty at the time of the downsizing planned by HiteJinro. The continuing medical treatment for Park and the livelihood of his family are driven into a difficult situation, as the hospital bills including other related expenses amount to about 10 million won(US$ 9,000) a month which are solely left to the burden upon the Park's family, due to the disapproval for the recognition of an industrial accident for Park.
The Park's family claimed that "Park had expressed his agony caused by a flood of inquiries from the union members and other employees regarding the unfair downsizing of the company. He did not have proper time for meal and sleep due to his hectic duty schedule, besides his ordinary work, doubled with the inquiries regarding the downsizing for the duration of two weeks before he collapsed."
Park's family filed an application for the recognition of an industrial accident with the Korea Workers' Compensation and Welfare Service. However, HiteJinro refused to sign the application, demanding the deletion of any documents related to the company's downsizing. Park's family had no choice but to submit the application with the deletion of the contents in relation to the company's downsizing, and the company argued that Park's case of brain hemorrhage is not related to his work.
A company manager testified in the company's statement submitted to the KCOMWEL that "Park used to drink four times a week, finishing three bottles of soju every time, and smoked two packs a day over three years." In the end, KCOMWEL made an adjudication on the case referred in December last year that "even though there could exist a work-related stress due to the downsizing of the company, an objective basis is not strong enough to recognize (it as an industrial accident) caused by short-term or chronic fatigues. It is, therefore, difficult to recognize a casual relationship between work and disease claimed by the applicant, taking into account the danger factors of cerebral vascular disease shown in the medical records of a brain hemorrhage in the past, drinking and smoking, and uncontrolled high blood pressure."
Park's family argues that the disapproval of their application for the industrial accident was based on the fabricated statement made by the company manager. Park did not drink or smoke as heavily as written in the statement submitted by the company. When Park's family belatedly came to know about the fabricated statement submitted by the company and made a complaint against the company's manager, the company manager confessed that he made a false statement without knowing Park's drinking and smoking habits and made an apology to Park's family for misleading the KCOMWEL's adjudication committee to come to a negative decision against Park."
At the moment, Park's family also filed an administrative lawsuit with the Administrative Court against the KMOMWEL.
reported by Lee Eun-young
translated by Kim Sung-jin
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