The court acquitted the executives of SK Chemical and Aekyung Industrial, who stood on trial for their product, Gaseupgi Mate (humidifier mate), a disinfectant for humidifiers, which harmed and killed over 90 victims. The court claimed that there was not enough evidence to prove the causal relations between the main ingredients of the product and the diseases, such as asthma. The victims fiercely opposed the latest ruling.
On January 12, Criminal Agreement Division 23 (chief judge Yu Yeong-geun) of the Seoul Central District Court acquitted all thirteen defendants including Hong Ji-ho, former CEO of SK Chemical and Ahn Yong-chan, former CEO of Aekyung Industrial, charged with work-related involuntary manslaughter for manufacturing and selling Gaseupgi Mate without verifying the safety of the product. The court also acquitted four former employees of SK Chemical, prosecuted for supplying polyhexamethylene guanidine (PHMG) to Oxy while concealing the toxicity of the chemical, saying that it was hard to recognize professional negligence.
Gaseupgi Mate, manufactured and sold by SK Chemical and Aekyung, caused the second most victims, after Oxy Ssakssak, a humidifier disinfectant by Oxy.
The court said, “There was not enough evidence to acknowledge the causal relations that the disinfectants using methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT) and methylisothiazolinone (MIT) caused lung diseases or asthma.” The bench also said, “After reviewing the case for over two years, we found that there was a big difference in harmfulness compared to the disinfectant using PHMG (Oxy Ssakssak), which was found guilty.”
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office announced plans to appeal the latest ruling and said, “The company ignored the difference in the harm to humans and animal test results despite confirming the lack of proper safety measures in the process of manufacturing and distributing Gaseupgi Mate.” A national network for the victims of humidifier disinfectants said, “The judiciary is being deceitful when claiming that there is no evidence,” and stated, “We will continue this fight along with the victims.”
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