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Samsung signs 'final settlement' with cancer victims

Kim Ji-hyung, chairman of the Mediation Committee (2nd L), shakes hands with Hwang Sang-gi (R), father of Samsung factory worker Hwang Yu-mi who died from leukemia, after they reached a partial agreement in Seoul on January 12, 2016

Samsung Electronics said Tuesday it had signed "a final settlement" over workers who contracted cancer in its semiconductor plants, but a victims' advocacy group said key issues remained unresolved.

The deal, signed by the South Korean electronics giant and two groups representing the victims and their families, aims to improve health and safety conditions at all Samsung's plants.

The parties agreed to establish an independent committee to conduct "a thorough inspection of Samsung's facilities and release reports on any areas for improvement," the company said in a statement.

Lawyers for the victims say 244 employees at Samsung's chip and display plants developed rare diseases linked to hazardous conditions, of whom 87 died.

Samsung fought the claims for years but issued an apology in May 2014, and then set up a compensation fund last year.

In its statement on Tuesday, the company thanked the mediation committee for its dedication to "making this final settlement possible."

"In the big picture, it is correct to say everything has now been settled," a Samsung official told AFP. "But Samsung remains open to talks as the agreements are put into practise."

However, Banolim -- one of the groups representing the victims -- said the matter was still far from closed, arguing that Samsung's apology and its fund had never been fully approved by all the victims' families.

"Samsung has refused to discuss the issues of apology and compensation with us," Kwon Young-Eun, a member of the group, told AFP.

"We will continue to demand Samsung address these issues properly," Kwon said.

Samsung says it has already provided financial compensation for more than 100 out of 150 applicants to its fund.