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Supreme Court rules in favor of Kyobo Life in suicide payouts case

Major South Korean life insurers are likely to save 400billion South Korean won after the Supreme Court of Korea ruled in favor ofKyobo Life Insurance Co.Ltd. in a case involving the payment of insurance benefits incontroversial suicide cases, MaeilBusiness Newspaper reported Sept. 30.

In its Sept. 30 ruling, the Supreme Court said Kyobo Lifehas no obligation to pay benefits to the family of an accidental-deathpolicyholder who committed suicide when the claims go beyond the statute oflimitations. The statute of limitations, according to The Korea Times, refers to the specific period for insurance claimsto be made to help insurance firms investigate a case before evidence is lost.

The ruling came after life insurers protested against SouthKorean regulators' guideline that they should pay the benefits regardless ofwhether the statute of limitation period of the policies has passed.The court ruling will help the insurers ward off pressure from regulators topay such claims.

Total amount of the unpaid benefits on suicide policies isabout 400 billion won, according to MaeilBusiness Newspaper. SamsungLife Insurance Co. Ltd. and Kyobo Life owe 158.4 billion won and113.4 billion won of unpaid suicide benefits, respectively, while owes 68 billion won. The insurers have resisted the Financial SupervisoryService's call for paying benefits in such cases.

An official at the Financial Supervisory Service said theregulator cannot force insurers to pay the benefits anymore. The regulator,however, is still preparing to impose regulatory penalties on insurers, Kookmin Ilbo reported.

As of Sept. 29, US$1was equivalent to 1,098.57 South Korean won.