RB Korea's boss socked during apology for sale of lethal disinfectants
THE head of the South Korean branch of British home hygiene company Reckitt Benckiser was cursed at and punched yesterday in Seoul as he accepted responsibility for his firm's sales of humidifier disinfectants blamed for the death of around 103 South Koreans.
Shouting "too late" and "cannot forgive" in English, a handful of the victims' relatives rushed the podium in Conrad Hotel where Atar Safdar, the head of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser Korea (RB Korea), was speaking, the Agence France-Presse reported.
"Only when prosecution probe has begun that you cared to apologise," one protester shouted as the event descended into chaos, reported the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper.
"The British headquarters have kept saying the Korean branch had nothing to do with them," another raved.
A mother whose child was a victim grieved at the news conference. "I waited for this moment for five years," she said.
Mr Safdar was finally able to resume his statement, in which he said he offered a "heartfelt and sincere apology" to all the victims and promised RB Korea was committed to a compensation plan.
His company also proposed that other makers of questionable disinfectants - in particular Lotte Mart and Homeplus - put in concerted efforts to compensate both the dead and the injured numbering more than 200.
The disinfectants were suspected to be toxic only after four pregnant women died of lung problems in 2011, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Some two weeks ago, prosecutors reconfirmed a report by the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that there is a connection between the death of more than 100 people from lung problems and chemicals used to clean household humidifiers, the Korea Herald reported.
They also established that RB Korea did not conduct a toxicity test before switching to a lethal chemical, PHMG or polyhexamethylene guanidine, in 2001 and allowed the sale of the disinfectants containing it despite the lapse.
Recently, RB Korea provoked outrage in saying the deaths may have been triggered by other factors such as yellow dust in spring.
Yesterday, some representatives for the victims also filed a legal complaint in Seoul targeting RB's headquarters in Berkshire.