South Korea announces its own Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery issue results, vows stricter oversight

The South Korean government conducted its own investigation into the Note 7's battery failure

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    • South Korean Government backs Samsung’s findings
    • Stricter oversight for those manufacturing Li-On batteries
    • Government to strengthen recall-related requirements

Samsung and independent investigators claimed in January that different battery problems from two suppliers – Samsung SDI Co Ltd and Amperex Technology Ltd – caused some Samsung Galaxy Note 7 units to combust. A separate probe by Korea Testing Laboratory reaffirmed that the two causes identified by Samsung’s own investigation were the only cause for the spontaneous combustion of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the trade ministry said.

South Korea on Monday stated that it will strengthen lithium-ion battery safety requirements and conduct regular inspections to avoid repeats of fires which forced Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to withdraw its premium Galaxy Note 7 handset. Manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries, commonly used in portable devices, would be subjected to greater oversight and regular inspections, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement. Devices using lithium-ion batteries also would be subjected to more regular safety tests, it added.

“We ask that the industry shares the view that making efforts to ensure safety is equally as critical as developing new products through technological innovation,” Vice Minister Jeong Marn-ki said in the statement. The government also said it would monitor Samsung’s efforts to improve battery safety, such as x-ray testing and stricter standards during the design process. It would strengthen recall-related requirements by broadening the types of serious product defects that manufacturers should report to the government, and seek legal changes to allow the government to warn consumers to stop using certain products even if they had not been recalled.

Samsung was forced to scrap the near-$900 Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in October after some of the devices caught fire due to faulty batteries, wiping out about $5.4 billion in operating profit over three quarters. After a long drawn investigation, two causes were found for the issue. It was found that the negative cathode on the top edge of the battery was bent, causing them to come in contact and hence catch fire. The second was a welding defect inside the batteries causing them to short and catch fire.

While lithium is a great metal for making batteries, its volatile nature also makes it extremely dangerous. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s battery issue illustrated that point very well. The South Korean government announcing greater oversight into battery manufacturing and testing is a much welcomed move, given that we are still some time away from alternative sources of energy.