South Korean victims of deadly humidifier sterilizers have held a protest rally outside the headquarters of the British pharmaceutical firm which manufactured the product linked to lung injuries to babies and mothers.
On Thursday, victims and grieving relatives of those whose deaths have been linked to its products in South Korea
gathered outside the AGM of UK
-headquartered Oxy Reckitt Benckiser in Lonson.
Kim Deok-jong, who lost his young son in 2009 and came to London to attend the protest rally, accused the company of bribing researchers to promote its products in the Asian-Pacific country.
“Quite recently Korean prosecutors found out all kinds of wrongdoings by Reckitt Benckiser Korea
, possibly coordinated by Reckitt Benckiser PLC, in other words their headquarters. They manipulated their own studies, they bribed the Korean experts, and particularly a Seoul university professor who was recently arrested by prosecutors, “Kim said at the London rally.
“Not only for the UK citizens, but people all over the world should know that this disaster was caused by Reckitt Benckiser, a multi-national company,” he added.
This came days after Ata Safdar, head of Reckitt Benckiser Korea and Japan, was slapped during an emotional news
conference before an audience that included victims and their families. The Monday news
conference in a Seoul hotel marked the first public acceptance of responsibility by the firm.
Sales of the sterilizers, a liquid added to the water of humidifiers, were banned by the South Korean government in 2011.
In recent years, at least 530 people registered claims of lung ailments from using humidifier sterilizers made by over a dozen companies. Of those claims, 221 have been assessed by the Seoul government as being eligible for compensation.
Atar Safdar (C), the head of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser Korea, is surrounded by the relatives of victims as he bows during a press conference at a hotel in Seoul on May 2, 2016. ©AFP
South Korean authorities said last year that 92 people were believed to have died from causes related to the humidifier products.
Reckitt says it set up a UDS 4.3 million humanitarian fund in 2013 to aid the afflicted in South Korea. The firm claims to settle about 80 percent of any cases that resulted from those claims.
Humidifiers are widely used in offices and homes across several countries where the winters are dry.
Meanwhile, Choi Ye-yong, who heads the Asian Citizens’ Centre for Environment and Health, has said there was a need to deliver a message to the global society about practices being used by multinational pharmaceutical companies.
“What they really worry about is not Korean victims, you know, and Korean people’s complaining or appealing, but international influence. So now it is time, we are going to deliver our message to the global, global society, particularly the stakeholders of Reckitt Benckiser,” he said.