While on a month-long holiday in South Korea with his wife, Englishman Andrew Jenson, 54, participated in protests against the government here over the toxic humidifier disinfectant tragedy.
Earlier this month, Jenson and his wife Debbie Kim had met Kim Deok-jong, whose 5-year-old son died in 2009 after battling a respiratory disease, in London. Kim was there to protest in front of Reckitt Benckiser headquarters in Slough, England. The couple helped Kim arrange meetings with authorities.
“I was very moved by the story (of Kim) and because I was already coming here for holiday, I wanted to join the protest,” Jenson told The Korea Herald.
Several weeks later, Jenson arrived in Korea with his wife on May 14.
Three days later, he held a picket that read, “The Environment Minister Out” in front of the government complex in Seoul, by himself.
Andrew Jenson (second from right) protests with toxic humidifier disinfectant victims and a civic group in front of the British Embassy in Junggu, Seoul, Thursday. Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald
On Thursday morning, Jenson and members of a victims’ group staged a protest in front of the British Embassy in Junggu, as they delivered a letter calling for action against RB headquarters.
Jenson then took the protest to Oxy Reckitt Benckiser in Yeouido in the afternoon with Choi Ye-yong, head of the Asian Citizen’s Center for Environment and Health.
“We are asking the company to apologize to the victims and make legal reparations,” said Jenson, who works at an international school in London.
Along with his wife, a social activist, he has participated in various protests in London tackling Korea’s social issues including the Sewol ferry sinking.
He said his wife has inspired him to lend a voice to social issues in her hme country and that he hoped his participation would help the victims.
Adding that tragedies like this could happen in any country, including his own, Jenson said he hoped to shed light on companies with wrong values.
Jenson said that he found similarities between the humidifier disinfectant tragedy and the Sewol ferry sinking in April 2014 which killed 304 people.
“The reaction of the government and private companies (to both incidents) was chaotic, uncaring and unjust, and it added (to) the misery of ordinary people, who already suffered a huge personal tragedy, which just made their lives more miserable,” he said.
He said the only way to break the shackles of such repetitive injustice is to boycott such companies’ products.
A nationwide boycott movement against Oxy has been spreading offline and online in Korea. Last week, online malls and social commerce websites such as Auction banned sales of Oxy products. Major household distributors and convenience stores like CU also removed Oxy products from their shelves.
“Victims and their families waited so long and suffered so much -- an unimaginable amount of suffering. ... I hope protests (that) happen here will shame the companies,” he said.
By Kim Da-sol (email@example.com