Former Reckitt Benckiser executive linked to death of 100 people in South Korea jailed for seven years

The company’s disinfectant for humidifiers killed scores of people and left hundreds with permanent lung damage

Zlata Rodionova
Friday 06 January 2017 09:12
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Protesters hold a anti-Oxy Reckitt Benckiser rally to launch a boycott campaign against the firm’s products
Protesters hold a anti-Oxy Reckitt Benckiser rally to launch a boycott campaign against the firm’s products

A former South Korean executive of UK-based Reckitt Benckiser has been jailed for seven years over the sale of a humidifier disinfectant that killed about 100 people and left hundreds with permanent lung damage.

Shin Hyun-woo, head of Reckitt Benkiser’s Oxy subsidiary from 1991 to 2005, was found guilty of accidental homicide and falsely advertising the deadly product as being safe even for children.

The seven years were the maximum prison sentence the court could give.

The consumer product disaster affected many families in South Korea, where children and pregnant women often battle dry winter seasons with humidifiers.

The ruling could set a precedent for punishing businesses that put profit ahead of safety.

Reckitt Benckiser is one of several companies linked to the deaths.

Other retailers such as Lotte Mart and Homeplus were also found guilty of selling the deadly product.

Choi Chang-young, chief judge of the case, said the disaster could have been prevented if Mr Shin and the company, had gone through product safety checks prior to sales.

The company withdrew its product from the market after South Korean authorities suggested a link between chemicals to sterilise humidifiers and lung conditions in 2011.

After prosecutors launched investigations, Reckitt Benckiser, whose products caused the most injuries and deaths, apologised last year and promised to compensate them.

More than 5,000 cases believed to be related to the disinfectant products had been reported to the government as of December, including about a thousand deaths.

The government is still reviewing cases.

Additional reporting by agencies

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