SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Korea Bizwire) – The National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) filed a lawsuit against Korea Tobacco & Ginseng (KT&G), Philip Morris International Korea, and British American Tobacco (BAT), claiming, “The three companies are obliged to recompense our compensatory damages paid over tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer and laryngeal cancer.”
The hearing held at the Seoul Central District Court on September 12 was the first and high-profile lawsuit in South Korea filed by a state-run organization against major tobacco firms.
However, the issue of the first hearing was primarily about whether NHIS is qualified to directly file a lawsuit against tobacco companies, rather than whether tobacco is harmful or addictive to smokers or the tobacco companies are accountable for illegal conduct.
The tobacco companies claimed, “NHIS is not qualified to file a lawsuit against us. A tobacco company and smokers are supposed to argue over issues about possible harmful materials in tobacco products and unlawful behaviors of tobacco companies; however, NHIS should not be involved in such a case. Paying out insurance money to patients is the due responsibility that NHIS should carry out, but it is definite that it should not consider the duty as financial damages.
Claiming against their points, NHIS strongly asserted that NHIS has the right to directly claim compensatory damages if there are any smoking-related medical costs involved due to the third party’s unlawful behaviors, referring to a few precedents.
The NHIS’ attorney also held, “The three tobacco companies are repeating procedural issues in defending a lawsuit. It is one of the typical strategic claims shown in the globally high-profile cases. As in the cases elsewhere in the world, now the tobacco companies are trying to protect themselves by making an issue of procedural matters, not of the health risks caused by smoking.”
Whatever claims both parties are making, the court decision may mean significantly in the sense that the state-run organization has filed against the tobacco industry.
By Eugene Yu (email@example.com)