When his teenage daughter Yu-mi landed a job at the electronics company Samsung,
But in 2007, five years after she began work at the semiconductor plant 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
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 today 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 came from other private investments and the filmmakers.
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.
"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."
Yu-mi and her colleague were not alone. About 200 workers have made similar allegations against Samsung and other chipmakers, according to Supporters for the Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry [Sharps].
Of the three-dozen Samsung workers who filed for compensation through the workers' welfare service last year, only two were successful, according to
Most of the semiconductor industry workers who turned to Sharps were in their 20s and 30s when they fell ill. More than 50 have since died.
"When you have that number of cases it is clear that the cases of Yu-mi and the other workers were not coincidences," Lee said. "The workers were never told what kind of materials they were handling. Even when lawyers asked Samsung for details about the chemicals they were told that it was a company secret."
The families' campaign got a boost in 2011 when the
In a more recent case involving a 29-year-old woman who died of leukaemia in 2009, the
Samsung is reluctant to publicly comment on the case and has questioned the film's version of several incidents, including the alleged harassment of relatives during low-key protests outside its
Company sources pointed out that the incidence of haematological cancers, such as leukaemia, in the semiconductor industry, was lower than the national average for
"Protecting the health and safety of our employees is, and has always been, our top priority," Samsung said in a statement to the Guardian. "As such, we are deeply saddened by the loss of former members of the Samsung family and are concerned about those who are battling illness."
Samsung said that independent research, including a three-year review by the
"Our semiconductor facilities abide by the highest employee and environmental regulations worldwide," the firm said. "We will continue to affirm our commitments to maintaining the highest possible employee health and safety standards for everyone in the Samsung family."
Those reassurances do not impress
Han, 36, is now in remission but was left partially paralysed and verbally impaired after several rounds of brain surgery.
Kim said: "I promised my daughter that I wouldn't give up until I could prove the link between her job and her illness. People told me that taking on Samsung was like throwing eggs at a rock, but that just made me want to fight even more."
Hwang still splits his time between driving his taxi in Sokcho, near the north-east border with
He does not criticise other relatives who, faced with income loss and soaring medical bills, have accepted Samsung's offers of financial help in exchange for dropping compensation claims. But he says his silence can't be bought. "After I turned down an offer of
Scenes from Another Promise, inspired by Yu-mi's death and her father's battle to find out about chemicals he believes killed her. Director,
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