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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

New Asbestos Claims – in Korea

Popular wisdom has it that that the types of tort litigation we have in the US are abhorred by the rest of the world. The reality, however, is that the world is changing, as is evidenced by today’s news including an article from the Mainiachi Daily News regarding the filing of two new asbestos claims in Korea. The full text is set out below.


Bereaved families of 2 South Koreans sue firms over asbestos deaths SEOUL — The bereaved families of two South Korean residents who died from mesothelioma after living near a factory producing asbestos have filed a damages suit against three parties including Nichias Corp., it has emerged. In the suit filed at the Busan district court, plaintiffs demanded companies including Tokyo-based Nichias Corp. pay 200 million won (about 14 million yen) each in compensation. It is the first time that local residents near an asbestos factory have filed a damages suit in South Korea. Local environmentalist groups and former residents near the factory have also joined hands in seeking relief measures. The plant — an asbestos spinning factory — was run by Jeil Asbestos (present-day Jeil E&S), which was jointly established by Nippon Asbestos (forerunner of Nichias) and a South Korean company near Busan city hall in 1971. The plant continued to operate until 1992. One of the male victims was living 900 meters away from the factory for seven years in the 1980s and subsequently died in 2006 from mesothelioma at age 44. The other victim was living 2.1 kilometers away from the factory for four years during the 1970s and died in 2002 from mesothelioma at age 62. On Nov. 13 this year, their bereaved families sued Nippon Asbestos and Jeil E&S, as well as the South Korean government for “failing to take measures to improve the factory.” According to the complaint, the plaintiffs claim that Nichias established the joint venture while knowing the toxicity of asbestos but concealed it from the public. “Nichias moved (its operations) to Busan after regulations against asbestos particulates were strengthened in Japan and it became difficult to produce asbestos in the country. The company now also operates plants in Indonesia and other Third World countries. We want to prevent the spread of pollution exports through the suit,” said a representative of a Busan-based environmental group supporting the plaintiffs. A representative of Nichias said, “We have not received the complaint and have not confirmed the suit. Those involved in the joint venture have already retired and we do not know the details.” In a related development in December last year, the Daegu district court in South Korea ordered Jeil E&S to pay 158 million won in compensation to a female former employee of its Busan factory who died from mesothelioma. The court case has subsequently prompted a series of damages suits against the company by its former employees. Click here for the original Japanese story (Mainichi Japan) November 18, 2008

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