A South Korean court Tuesday ordered an asbestos manufacturer to pay 141,000 dollars in damages to a victim's relatives, in the country's first legal ruling on the cancer-causing material.
The court in the southern city of Daegu ruled in favour of the family of a worker who died years after working at a plant producing the toxic product, paving the way for other victims to win compensation.
"It is acknowledged that the accused, while being well aware of the health hazards of asbestos, failed to provide workers with protective gear," Judge Kim Se-Jong said in a statement.
The worker died of mesothelioma, a form of cancer, in October 2006 at the age of 46, about two years after being diagnosed with the disease. He had worked for the asbestos manufacturer in the southern city of Busan for two years beginning in 1976.
"This is a monumental ruling," Chung Sook-Ja, a director of the Daegu Federation for the Enviroment told AFP, adding that the case was the first of several asbestos lawsuits now underway in South Korea.
She said at least 46 people had died of asbestos-related lung cancer or mesothelioma over the past seven years in the country.
Lawyer Lee Ho-Chol who represented the relatives welcomed the verdict.
"It usually takes a long time before the damage caused by asbestos exposure surfaces and therefore it is hard to prove the links between the material and illness," Lee told journalists.
He noted that asbestos had been widely used in homes including for attic insulation since the 1960s.
"I hope this court ruling helps raise public awareness of the dangers from asbestos and prompts government authorities to take action," he said.