After fatal accident, Samsung’s Lee sacks CEO

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After fatal accident, Samsung’s Lee sacks CEO

After a water tank burst at a construction site in Ulsan July 26 leaving three workers dead and 12 injured, Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee sacked the president of Samsung Engineering, which was in charge of the site.

The 71-year-old chairman’s decision to replace Samsung Engineering President Park Ki-seok with Park Choong-heum, chief operating officer at the company, is interpreted as Lee taking a hard-line on industrial safety and holding the top executive responsible for accidents.

“The decision is meant to raise awareness [of presidents of Samsung affiliates] by holding them responsible for [avoidable] industrial accidents,” said an official at the company.

The July 26 accident took place at a polysilicon production plant being built for SMP, a joint venture between Samsung Fine Chemicals and Missouri-based MEMC. Workers were filling a 1,300-ton water tank to detect cracks and it ruptured at the 1,000 metric ton (1,102 short ton) mark.

One of the three fatalities was a 21-year-old college student surnamed Roh, who was working on a part-time contract during his summer break. Choi Man-sik, 50, and another worker identified only as Seo, 45, also died.

The Ulsan Nambu Police Precinct, which is investigating the case, reported Thursday that the use of the wrong kind of 12-milimeter (0.47-inch) bolts to seal parts of the tank was the cause of the accident. According to the police, the company should have used special-purpose bolts designed to withstand high pressure.

The police conducted search and seizure raids at Samsung Engineering offices, collecting construction contracts and safety-standards to get to the bottom of the accident.

The country’s biggest conglomerate has been hit by a series of industrial accidents since January, killing four workers so far this year.

BY SHIM JAE-WOO, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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