Fighting Sexual Harassment at Samsung: Part 2

James Turnbull's picture

( “What? Sexual Harassment at Samsung Electronics?? Heaven Forbid!”. Source )

This post, about Lee Eun-eui’s successful suit against Samsung Electronics for sexual harassment by her boss and then being punished for reporting it, follows directly from Part 1. If you haven’t already, please read that before continuing:

블로그에 “1 레이싱이 얼추 막이 내렸다라고 썼더라. 1 레이싱을 뛰고 소감이 어떤가.

On your blog, you wrote that”The First Round is almost over”. How do feel about that?

아직 실감이 잘 안 난다. 꿈꾸는 것 같다. 회사가 항소를 할 건지 안 할 건지에 따라 바뀌겠지만, 지금은 해묵은 숙제를 끝내고 조금 쉴 수 있는 시간이다(삼성은 “내부적으로 법률적인 판단을 거친 뒤 항소 여부를 결정할 것이다”라고 밝혔다). 판결 뒤 며칠 편하게 잠을 잤다. 사건을 겪으면서 죽고 싶다는 생각도 많이 했다. 내가 일하는 건물(수원 삼성전기 본사)에서 죽을까, 삼성 본관이 있는 강남이나 태평로로 갈까…생각하면서. 그런데서 죽었으면 신문에 한 줄이라도 날까? 결국 살아서 싸우니까 좋은 결과를 본다고 판단했다. 삼성 사건 치고는 기사도 많이 나왔다(웃음).

It doesn’t feel like it’s real yet. It’s like a dream. Of course, Samsung may yet decide to file an appeal, but for now at least I am finally able to finish all my work related to the case and take a rest (Samsung stated that it will “decide whether or not to file an appeal after discussing the legal judgment within the company”), and I’ve slept soundly in the few days since the judgment was handed down. While the case was going on, I often thought of killing myself, but wondered whether to do it at my workplace (Suwon Samsung Electronics branch), at Samsung’s headquarters in Gangnam, or on Taepyeong Road [in front of Seoul City Hall - James]…but if I did, would it even get one line in a newspaper? So, I decided to carry on and fight, and in the end I was able to see a good result. And now (laughing) there are many articles about Samsung electronics in the news!

5억을 제기했었는데, 판결은 4천만 원을 배상하라고 나왔다.

You sued Samsung for 500 million won (US$422, 305), but were only awarded 40 (US$33,784)…?

따 지자면 5억을 받아도 성에 차지 않지만, 금액이 중요한 게 아니라 내용이 중요하다. 판사도 용기 있는 결단을 했다고 생각한다. 판결문 보고 엉엉 울었다. 판사에게 너무 고마웠다. 억울했던 것들에 대해서 인정을 받았으니까. 판사는 수많은 재판 중에 한 건이겠지만, 이건 굉장히 많은 여성 직장인들에게 큰 영향을 미칠 거라고 생각한다. ‘네가 이겨줘서 고맙다’ ‘뜨거운 마음으로 박수를 보낸다’ 등 연락도 많이 받았다. 회사에서 어려움을 겪는 분들, 특히 여직원들이 상담을 해오기도 한다. 아주 많은 숫자는 아니지만, 중요하다고 생각한다. 4천만 원을 배상하라는 것과는 비교할 수 없는 일이다. 회사가 항소하지 않으면 나도 안 할 생각이다. 이 판결을 그대로 유지하고 싶다.

이은의씨는 “미안한다는 말이 그렇게 어려웠을까”라고 기자에게 되물었다. 그녀는 가해자나 회사가 ‘미안하다’라며 사과를 했다면 소송까지도 가지 않았을 것이라고 했다.

Even if I’d received the full 500 million won, that wouldn’t have been enough to satisfy my anger, but then the amount isn’t the important thing anyway. I thought that the judge was very brave with his final decision, and I wept as it was read out, I was so thankful to him for showing everyone that what I’d said was true. And while to him this was surely just one case out of many, I think it will have a huge effect on women workers. I have received many messages like “Thank you for your victory” and “I applaud you with a warm heart” and so on, and have also been asked for advice from other women experiencing similar problems at their own companies. While their numbers aren’t great, I think that it is very important, and 40 million won can’t compare to that. And if Samsung doesn’t appeal, then I won’t either: I want this judgment to stick. (source, above)

“Was it really so difficult for them to say sorry”? Lee Eun-eui asked. And she adds that if the offender or the company had simply apologized, then she probably wouldn’t have gone so far as to file a lawsuit against them.

2005 5 이후, 판결이 나기까지 5년이 걸렸다. 싸움이 쉽지 않았을 같다.

It has been 5 years since the first incident in May 2005 to the final judgment. It can’t have been easy.

사 내에서 받아들여지지 않아 2007년 인권위에 진정했다. 인권위가 삼성전기에 재발방지 대책 수립 권고를 내렸지만, 회사는 권고를 취하해 달라며 행정소송을 제기했다. 그리고 2008년 내가 제기한 민사소송(손해배상)까지 내면서 ‘전문가’가 됐다. ‘삼성’이라고 하면 어느 곳도 싸워주겠다고 제대로 덤비는 곳이 없었다. 어렵게 도와주시는 변호사를 만났지만, 그런 과정을 거치다 보니 시간이 길어졌다.

회사가 ‘미안하다’라고만 했어도 일이 이렇게까지 안 됐을 거다. 사과는 커녕 ‘외부에 이런 사실을 알리면 민형사상 소송을 진행하겠다’라는 회사의 메일을 받을 때마다 처음엔 무서웠다. 인권위에 진정하기 전까지 2년 동안 병이 났다. 아버지가 갑자기 돌아가시고, 부서에서는 내쳐지고…배신감과 누적된 정신적 피로감이 폭발해서 실어증이 왔다. 당시에는 말만 시작하면 계속 울었다. 회사가 ‘성희롱 없었다’ ‘대기발령도 사실이 아니다’ ‘왕따도 없었다’라며 전면적으로 부정하는 데 정말 할 말을 잃었다. 결국 인권위에서 권고가 나왔고, 회사가 인권위에 제기한 행정소송에서도 인권위의 손을 들어줬다. 이번 민사소송도 승소했고. 주위에서는 ‘기적’이라고 한다.

As nothing was done within the company about my accusations, in 2007 I informed the Human Rights Commission, and they made an official recommendation to Samsung that the company needed to institute measures to prevent such sexual harassment from occurring again. Rather than following that recommendation however, Samsung sued the Human Rights Commission to have that recommendation withdrawn! Then in 2008 I filed my own civil suit against Samsung for personal damages, and in the process became quite the legal expert, as there were no lawyers prepared to take up my case and defy Samsung. In the end I did find a lawyer to help though, but that was just the start of a long and arduous legal process. (source, above)

If only Samsung had said sorry, things would never have gone this far. But rather than apologize, instead they sent me emails saying they would sue me if I informed anyone outside the company of it, which was very scary at first. And in the 2 years before I informed the Human Rights Commission, I got very sick. My father suddenly passed away, I was completely cut out of the department I’d worked in…I felt such a sense of betrayal, and the mental stress and fatigue just kept accumulating and accumulating to the extent that I even developed aphasia; whenever I started speaking, I would cry [James - It's a minor point, but wouldn't that really be depression?]. But the company completely lied and said that there was no sexual harassment, that I was not placed on extended leave, and that I was not ostracized at work, which just left me speechless anyway! In the end, once the Human Right Commission’s recommendation came, the company sued them but lost, and this time I won too. People around me say it’s a miracle.

( Source )

And daughters permitting, Part 3 of the interview will be up on Monday!

(Posted at The Grand Narrative)

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