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Former CEO Jailed Over Deaths Linked To Toxic Products Sold In South Korea

Shin Hyun-woo, former head of UK consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser's South Korean business, has been jailed for seven years.

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The former CEO of Oxy, the South Korean business of UK consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser, has been jailed for criminal negligence following the deaths of almost 100 people.

Shin Hyun-woo was charged after a humidifier disinfectant manufactured by the company was linked to deaths resulting from lung conditions resulting from toxic chemicals in the product.

The judge in South Korea, who said the company failed to implement proper safety inspections and falsely advertised the products as safe for children, also jailed chiefs from other companies, local to the country, that sold or manufactured similar items, according to the Financial Times.

In sentencing remarks, the judge said the tragedy could have been avoided had proper safety taken steps to ensure the product was safe for use.

The product, which has been linked to the deaths of victims including pregnant women and children, was withdrawn in 2011 but the company only first publicly apologised in a media briefing in May 2016 where angry relatives of the dead berated and slapped the spokesperson, regional director Ata Safdar.

The company, which also owns brands including Durex, Dettol, and Strepsils, has faced a backlash and boycott in South Korea. Protesters also demonstrated outside the company's AGM in London this summer.

BuzzFeed News contacted the company but it had not responded at the time of writing. However, in a statement on its website it said it had "expressed our sincere apologies to all those victims of the tragedy in Korea and stated absolutely our determination to do the right thing for the victims and their families.

"We have accepted full responsibility for the role that this product played in these health issues, including deaths, in Korea and while we acknowledge that we cannot repair the harm that has been done, we have stated our continuing intention to do whatever we can to provide full resolution to these cases."

It has also set up a "humanitarian fund" and a compensation fund to assist victims.

The statement concluded that the company had since "made improvements to its safety teams and has introduced new processes which will signal any potential issue as soon as possible, so corrective action can be taken.

"We want to reassure consumers we have taken significant steps to ensure the safety of our products and to avoid any possibility of recurrence."

Sara Spary is a consumer business correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Sara Spary at sara.spary@buzzfeed.com.

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