A 15-year-long legal battle between cancer patients and Korean cigarette maker KT&G has come to an end, and the tobacco company has come out on top.
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday against patients who claimed that their years of smoking had caused their cancer.
The dispute dates back to 1999 when 36 people, including seven cancer patients and their families, filed lawsuits against KT&G and the country, demanding financial compensation.
They alleged that the company had used chemical additives to enhance the effect of their cigarettes.
The Supreme Court said in its ruling Thursday that there wasn't enough evidence to prove the claim.
In 2007, the Seoul District Court said there was no evidence that cancer was directly caused by smoking cigarettes.
Four years later the Seoul High Court did acknowledge that there was a cause-and-effect relationship between smoking and lung cancer in four patients.
But that there was still no proof that KT&G gave false information about their cigarettes.
"A total of four tobacco-related lawsuits have been filed in Korea.
But so far, none of the plaintiffs have won their cases."
"I don't think this should be a matter of filing a lawsuit. Everyone knows there is a high risk of getting cancer when you smoke."
"I feel like the court's ruling shows a lack of trust from the people towards the country. That's why I think there should be some compensation or an apology."
Legal experts say in the case of individuals, a case by case investigation is required, on when the plaintiff started to smoke, when the cancer appeared, and a whole host of other factors.
"If more tobacco-related lawsuits are filed in this way, there is a low chance that the plaintiffs will win. If they focus more on issues like unfair profits, they might have more success."
This could be the case in the near future, as the National Health Insurance Service is expected to file a lawsuit against KT&G soon, which would shift the focus from individuals to public organizations.
Kwon Soa, Arirang News.