Korea’s REACH Chemical Law

In February 2011, the South Korean Ministry of the Environment released a draft of “the Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals.” The Ministry of Environment is the South Korean branch of government charged with environmental protection. The present minister is Lee Man Ee. Notably, in addition to enforcing regulations and sponsoring ecological research, the Ministry manages the national parks of South Korea.

The new chemical restriction Act has often been called REACH-like. It will have a list of substances of concern, like REACH. The current Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals will be updated significantly by the new Act, which will regulate both new and existing substances.

The legislation is expected to come into force in 2013.

About the new Korean REACH. The new draft Act requires manufacturers and importers of chemicals to notify substances (i.e. submit data such as quantities of production or import in the previous year) to the South Korean Ministry of the Environment.  There will be a list of substances of very high concern, there will be preregistration, registration, and authorization.

Sound familiar? If you put it to your ear you can hear oceans, all the way to the land of REACH.

Korean REACH registration. Registration will apply to two categories of substances:

  1. new substances
  2. priority existing chemical substances (priority on the basis of assessed risk)

The law firm Keller and Heckman summarized the landscape recently by saying that are many favorable aspects of the Draft Act. But there are also many uncertainties, and potentially unfavorable, aspects from the perspective of U.S. industry.  We are well-advised to be alert to the following:

  1. The criteria for deciding whether substances are of priority for registration are unclear
  2. The exemptions are far fewer than they should be, given the substantial burdens
  3. The South Korean Ministry of Environment is given unbridled discretion to decide the scope of the exemptions
  4. There are significant issues surrounding provisions for maintaining the confidentiality of data
  5. There is no provision for utilizing the information already assembled under REACH in order to avoid duplication of effort
  6. The standards by which the South Korean Ministry of Environment will decide whether a substance is of concern are not specified
  7. There are many other uncertainties that should be addressed during the legislative process
  8. The deadlines for Registration are too compressed
  9. The minimum tonnage band that triggers the registration obligation is too low
  10. No procedures are set out to challenge MOE’s decisions
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