South Korea has an unexpected new hit movie: the story of factory workers who became ill working for a company that looks a lot like the Korean giant Samsung.

South Korea’s Surprise Hit Film

South Korea has an unexpected new hit movie: the story of factory workers who became ill working for a company that looks a lot like the Korean giant Samsung

JEYUP S. KWAAK

Feb. 14, 2014 7:33 p.m. ET

South Korea has an unexpected new hit movie: the story of factory workers who became ill working for a company that looks a lot like the Korean giant Samsung. The makers of “Another Family”—the second-highest-grossing film to debut in South Korea last week—say it is based on the true story of a working-class family whose daughter contracted leukemia while working at a Samsung semiconductor factory and died of the disease in 2007.

Four years later, the Seoul Administrative Court ruled that toxic chemicals at the plant “had caused or, at least, expedited the illness” of two workers, including the daughter. The exact cause of their ailments wasn’t scientifically proven, the ruling said. The court dismissed similar claims by other workers, citing a lack of evidence.

Since then, the case has been pending in an appeals court. There are 39 other cases involving Samsung Electronics factories pending either in court or at South Korea’s state-run welfare agency, according to the labor rights lawyer representing them.

The film shows the father’s efforts to prove that chemicals used at his daughter’s workplace caused her and other workers to contract rare illnesses. The movie fictionalizes the names of the company and the characters.

“Another Family,” which cost about $2 million, including marketing and promotion, is also notable for another reason: Around 14% of its funding was crowdsourced, and over half came from more than 100 individual investors, said Park Sung-Il, a producer for the film.

That a film like “Another Family” could be made and distributed is a rare feat in Korea. Producers without major studio backing have few funding options. The country’s biggest conglomerates have close family and business ties with the major distributors and theater chains. Critics warn that these links may prevent films from being made if they depict these corporations negatively. Mr. Park said that the movie was allocated fewer screens than other feature films.

A Samsung spokesman declined to comment on the pending court cases and the movie’s content but described claims that the company had tried to influence the film’s production or limit its distribution as groundless.

After the premiere in the city of Busan, the filmmakers changed its Korean-language title to “Another Promise.” The English-language title remains “Another Family,” once a well-known slogan for Samsung in South Korea. Mr. Park says the new title was chosen to shift the focus to the father character’s quest for justice rather “than snipe at a certain company.”

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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