On August 24, 2023, South Korea’s Ministry of Environment (MOE) and the President’s Office held the Fourth Regulatory Innovation Strategy Meeting under the initiative of President Yoon, announcing that the government will relax chemical regulations and refine other regulations to generate a cumulative economic impact of KRW 8.8 trillion (approximately USD 6.8 billion) by 2030.
President Yoon said that it is needed to identify major environmental regulations that obstaculate business investment and to consider economic aspects. He also stated that any regulation that is unreasonably stricter compared to those of other countries must be repealed or revised boldly. Notably, he announced a plan to revise the threshold for registration of new chemical substances from the current 0.1 tons per year to 1 ton per year under the Act on Registration, Evaluation, etc. of Chemicals (hereinafter “K-REACH“). The specific plans announced by the President to revise chemical regulations are as follows.
1. Relaxation of the registration threshold for new chemical substances under the K-REACH
While noting that the current registration threshold for new chemical substances specified in K-REACH is stricter than EU standards, President Yoon stated that he was planning to make the following adjustments.
|Planned new rule
|Anyone who manufactures or imports 100 kg or more of a new chemical substance per year must register it with the MOE before manufacturing or importing the substance.
|Anyone who manufactures or imports 1 ton or more of a new chemical substance per year must register it with the MOE before manufacturing or importing the substance.
If the above revision is enacted, it is expected that more than 700 companies, mainly in the semiconductor and electronics industries, will be able to reduce their registration costs and bring their products to market sooner. In addition, if the threshold is revised to “1 ton or more per year,” companies that handle small amounts of new chemical substances will only need to fulfill notification obligations in order to bring their products to market
2. Application of different standards to workplaces with lower risk of accidents
Workplaces that handle small amounts of chemicals are expected to be exempted (or relaxed) from various chemical related standards on hazardous chemicals, periodic inspections, and other factors.
The President stated that workplaces have been controlled by the same standards regardless of the level of risk of an accident and, he plans to amend the Chemicals Control Act (hereinafter “CCA”) to allow different standards to be applied on an individual basis depending on the conditions as described above. For example, if the CCA is revised as described above, it is expected that companies that handle small amounts of hazardous chemicals will be able to save time and money by conducting only voluntary safety management instead of mandatory periodic inspections.
The MOE announced that it would proceed with the revision of the K-REACH and the CCA by the end of 2023, in response to the above announcement by the fourth Regulatory Innovation Strategy Meeting.
Meanwhile, on October 30, 2023, six major South Korean business organizations, including the Federation of Korean Industries, the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Korea Enterprises Federation, stated that, in response to the delay in the progress of the revision of the K-REACH and the CCA in the National Assembly’s review, they are lobbying for the speedy passage of these two revisions announced at the fourth Regulatory Innovation Strategy Meeting. The six groups issued a joint statement that environmental regulations, which have been blocking business investment for several years, must be improved as soon as possible.
As of December 12, 2023, the proposed revisions to the K-REACH and the CCA have not been finalized or released for a preliminary notice.
The press release and a media report related to this article can be viewed at the following URL (in Korean).