SEOUL – The head of a Korean subsidiary of a British consumer goods company was slapped and shouted down Monday as he apologised for his firm’s role in selling a humidifier disinfectant blamed for more than 100 deaths in South Korea.
Shouting “too late” and “cannot forgive” in English, a handful of the victims’ relatives rushed the podium where Ata Safdar, the head of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser Korea, was speaking at a hotel in Seoul.
The executive was slapped and pushed several times as the event descended into chaos.
“I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry. I deeply apologise. We want to make amends,” Safdar told the angry relatives, bowing repeatedly in a gesture of contrition.
Safdar was finally able to resume his statement, in which he offered a “heartfelt and sincere apology” to all the victims and said his company was committed to a multi-million dollar compensation plan.
The case came to light after four pregnant women died of lung problems for unknown reasons in 2011.
A subsequent government probe found a “significant association” between lung damage and products used to sterilise domestic humidifiers.
Most of the victims were found to have used Oxy Ssak Ssak, a liquid humidifier disinfectant sold by Reckitt Benckiser in South Korea from 2001, that has been blamed for around 103 deaths — mostly women and children.
The products were withdrawn from local markets in 2011.