AMERICAN SAMOA HOUSE COMMITTEE WARNS DAEWOOSA GARMENT COMPANY

admin's picture

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (August 4, 2000 - Samoa News/PINA Nius Online)---Daewoosa Samoa owner-president Kil-Soo Lee has been warned to "either resolve your problems immediately or shut down your company."

The warning was issued by House of Representatives Rules Committee chairman, Rep. S.E. Sala, during a recent Committee hearing over the garment manufacturer's continuing labor and social problems.

As a whole, the Committee believes that Daewoosa has painted a "bad image" of the Territory's developing garment industry.

This is the second House hearing on Daewoosa's problems. The first was held in mid-1999 when allegations of mistreatment of the company's Vietnamese workers first surfaced.

"This Committee regrets to see you again here," Rep. S.E. told Kil-Soo Lee. "The reason for this hearing is because of numerous complaints from the public concerning your workers walking onto private property without permission and helping themselves to the fruits of the land."

The hearing also addressed worker pregnancies, non-payment of rent, and the recent federal fine levied against the company.

The Committee had also been apprised of several court-issued injunctions against Daewoosa for the protection of its foreign workers.

Rep. Sala reminded Mr. Lee that the committee had previously advised him that his company's problems needed to be resolved as soon as possible.

"But today, as we meet again, it is clear to us that your company's many problems have been compounded instead of being resolved," the chairman told the visitor.

"All these problems appear to be very serious," Rep. Sala told Mr. Lee. "You either resolve it or close up your company because American Samoa cannot afford to have a company that mistreats its workers, especially if they are women, foreign women, and violating federal laws.

"We will reach an agreement today or this committee will introduce a resolution asking the government to shut down your operations," he continued. "These are serious problems, especially the mistreatment of women."

Through an interpreter, Mr. Lee denied all allegations of worker mistreatment and told the committee that he does not understand the reasons behind the workers complaints that have since led to the filing of a class action lawsuit against his company.

On the land lease deal, Mr. Lee told the committee that back-rent payments are being made and the company should be up-to-date on those payments before the end of the year.

Daewoosa workers attorney Virginia Sudbury, who filed the suit on behalf of her foreign clients, later testified before the committee during its recent hearings.

"If all these problems you allege are happening at Daewoosa, why aren't you as a private attorney for your client filing to shut this place down?" asked Rep. Sala.

"Because I don't know if shutting it down would be in the benefit of the workers," Sudbury replied. "They have come over here, thousands and thousands of miles away....," she tried to explain but was interrupted by Rep. Sala.

"Well, if this place is shut down, that eliminates these problems we've heard about, then these workers need to go back to their homeland," said the committee chairman.

"I don't think we would eliminate those problems," Sudbury countered. "I think we'd just put them in our back yard, and don't have to look at them any more."

"But it's not our responsibility to look at these peoples rights and try to take care of them," the Committee chairman pointed out. "In the first place, American Samoa did not bring these workers here; it was Daewoosa that did. If we shut this company down, then these workers can return to their homeland."

"That is definitely arguable," Sudbury replied. "The U.S. Department of Labor still maintains active control in this case and its concerns.

"But with all due respect, we are a territory of the U.S.," she continued. "We are here to protect their rights. The American Samoa government did authorize Daewoosa to open a factory here."

"I agree with you, that we have to protect these people's rights, but at the same time, we also have to protect this territory's rights," said Rep. Sala.

Sudbury reminded the Committee that several of the Vietnamese workers have been labeled "trouble makers" and if they are returned to their homeland, they will face "serious consequences" because Vietnam "is an oppressive country".

She then alleged that some of the women workers who have returned have already faced some problems for their alleged behavior here at Daewoosa Samoa.

"I would like to see these workers remain here to fulfill their contracts with Daewoosa," Sudbury told the Committee.

"I believe that everyone involved in this issue are intelligent people – the Attorney General's Office, the lawyer for the Daewoosa workers and Daewoosa itself," said Rep. Sala.

"And I believe that everyone involved can and should sit down and work out a solution to resolve these allegations over Daewoosa," he added.

"These problems are creating a lot of community concern and give American Samoa a very bad name," he continued. "We at the Fono are seriously concerned over these on-going problems with Daewoosa and we would like to see them resolved."

Rep. Sala said that if these problems are not resolved soon enough, the House will move for a concurrent motion that calls on the government to close down Daewoosa Samoa and return all its foreign workers to their homelands.

According to the chairman, the Committee will continue to monitor Daewoosa's troubles, including the pending court cases.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment