A dozen people received jail terms of up to seven years Friday in a high-profile case over deadly humidifier disinfectants that killed more than 100 people, including pregnant women and infants, in South Korea.
The Seoul Central District Court sentenced Shin Hyun-woo, 68, the former head of a British firm, to seven years in prison on conviction of selling the humidifier disinfectants without going through due safety checks.
Shin, who headed Oxy Reckitt Benckiser Korea from 1991 to 2005, was indicted for professional negligence. The court, however, acquitted Google Korea CEO John Lee, an American citizen who headed Oxy from 2005 to 2010, of involuntary manslaughter and other charges, citing lack of evidence.
Other defendants who received jail terms included three Oxy researchers, two small chemical company chiefs, and six businessmen from two major discount chains, Lotte Mart and Home Plus. The court ruled they were found guilty of neglecting safety checks, covering up the toxicity of chemicals, or falsely advertising their products as safe.
"If they checked the safety of disinfectants before or even after their launch, we should not have seen such a tragedy," it said in a statement.
Government data showed more than 100 people were presumed to have died after using humidifier disinfectants produced by Oxy and other companies. Consumer groups have led a campaign to boycott Oxy products.
Oxy has been at the center of the scandal that came to light after pregnant women died of a serious lung ailment in 2011. The company was accused of failing to conduct a safety test despite a warning from German researchers about the inhalation toxicity of chemicals.