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Justice for Aricell Workers

June 25, 2024

ANROEV Statement on the South Korean Lithium Battery Factory Fire

The Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) condemns the gross negligence and violations of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) rights that resulted in the tragic death of 23 workers in a blaze at a South Korean lithium battery plant. The factory, operated by Aricell in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-Do, caught fire following a series of battery explosions. Officials report that the victims likely succumbed to extremely toxic gas. Among the 23 deceased workers, 17 were Chinese, 5 were South Koreans, and one was a Laos national. Additionally, 17 of the deceased were women and 6 were men.

The chemicals used in battery manufacturing are highly flammable, making stringent safety measures critical. However, it is evident that the safety of the workers at Aricell was neglected. This incident highlights severe lapses in safety protocols, with catastrophic consequences.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) has condemned the incident as the worst chemical explosion and the largest industrial accident involving migrant workers in South Korea’s history. They emphasized that this disaster was foreseeable and preventable, given the history of lithium battery explosions and the inadequate safety measures at the factory.

Despite numerous safety checks, no effective countermeasures were implemented.

It has called for immediate and thorough support for the victims and their families, transparent communication regarding the cause of the accident, involvement of the victims’ families in the accident investigation, and strict enforcement of the Serious Disasters Punishment Act to ensure severe penalties for those responsible.

The National Metal Workers’ Union echoed these sentiments, highlighting the repeated failure to prioritize worker safety over profit. They noted that the fire and subsequent explosions at Aricell underline the systemic issues within the industry, particularly the exploitation and inadequate protection of migrant workers. The union calls for a complete overhaul of industrial safety systems and a thorough investigation to prevent such disasters from recurring.

ANROEV extends its heartfelt sympathy to the families of the workers who died in this workplace tragedy. It also stands in solidarity with labor groups calling for immediate assistance to the families of the deceased and the injured workers. We demand swift justice for those who lost their lives at work. The South Korean government must hold Aricell accountable for this gross negligence and ensure that such violations of OSH rights are met with appropriate punishment according to national laws.

This tragedy underscores the urgent need for strong safety regulations and strict enforcement to protect all workers, regardless of their nationality or employment status. The safety and health of workers must be the highest priority, and systemic changes are essential to prevent future tragedies.

ANROEV’s Calls to Action:

Workers’ safety is the government’s responsibility!

Provide due compensation and support to the families of the killed workers and those injured in the blaze.

Conduct a comprehensive judicial investigation of the factory fire and provide prompt information to the public, especially to the victims’ families.

Justice for Aricell Workers!

Enforce the Serious Disaster Punishment Law! Ensure that Aricell and all its officers involved in this gross neglect of OSH regulations are held accountable and given the appropriate punishments under the law.