(Photo: Yonhap News)
The Seoul Central District Court has rejected a 53.7 billion won compensation request sought by the National Health Insurance Service against three major tobacco firms.
The court handed down the ruling Friday, citing no direct links between the state health insurer's increased financial burden and the cigarette companies' businesses.
The NHIS sued KT&G, Philip Morris Korea and British American Tobacco Korea in 2014, seeking compensation for the amount it spent from 2003-2013 to cover the cost of treating people suffering from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer.
The court said the possibility that such diseases are caused by other factors, such as individual lifestyle, genetics and job-related characteristics, also cannot be ruled out.
Kim Yong-ik, president of the NHIS, called the verdict "very shocking and regrettable," and said they may appeal.
Kim told reporters he knew it wouldn't be easy to get legal recognition of damage caused by cigarettes, unlike in some countries where courts have ordered tobacco companies to pay.
Kim said, however, the NHIS will continue its efforts to publicize the harmful effects of smoking and raise social awareness about the issue.
South Korea has not seen a successful legal case against tobacco firms.
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