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South Korea: Enforcement of Asbestos Safety Management Act

September 2012 - Real Estate & Property. Legal Developments by Kim & Chang .

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The Asbestos Safety Management Act (the "Asbestos Act"), which is designed to ensure safe and effective management of asbestos became effective as of April 29, 2012. In the face of growing public concerns over escalating risk associated with asbestos, the Asbestos Act was promulgated last year to effectively control and manage asbestos-containing products, potential asbestos-containing materials and asbestos construction materials. The main features of the Asbestos Act are as follows.

Asbestos Management Planning

  • The government must develop a basic plan in every five years setting forth the roadmap for safe and efficient management of asbestos. The ministers of the central government and city mayors or provincial governors must establish comprehensive action plans every year and carry out a periodic asbestos inspection every two years or ad hoc inspections if necessary.

Management of Asbestos-containing Products, etc.

  • Under the Asbestos Act, asbestos-containing products are prohibited from being manufactured, imported, assigned, provided, or used except in limited cases as specified under related laws. The Asbestos Act grants the right to the Minister of Environment to designate minerals and materials which may potentially contain asbestos ("potential asbestos-containing materials") upon reviewing the asbestos inspection results and assessment of the likelihood of presence of asbestos and the risk from asbestos. 
  • Any person who plans to import or produce potential asbestos-containing materials must obtain approval/license from the Ministry of Environment. Such license holder intending to process or modify potential asbestos-containing materials must submit a detailed operation plan and process to the Ministry of Environment and comply with the asbestos emission standards.

Management of Public Facilities, Multi-use Facilities or Schools

  • Under the Asbestos Act, certain buildings or structures are subject to mandatory inspection for asbestos which include public facilities with gross floor areas of 500m2 or more, kindergartens and schools, culture/assembly facilities with gross floor areas of 500m2 or more, medical facilities, facilities for elderly and young children, etc. Owners of such buildings or structures are required to undergo inspections for asbestos within one year from the date the permit of occupancy was granted pursuant to the Construction Act. (Public facilities and facilities for which the construction permit was obtained or construction report was filed prior to December 31, 1999 must undergo inspections for asbestos within three years from the enforcement date of the Asbestos Act. Other types of facility or structure must undergo inspections for asbestos within three years from the enforcement date of the Asbestos Act.) Depending on the results from the asbestos inspection, building owners may be required to submit the inspection results to their provincial governor, city mayor and also inform related parties such as the lessee, manager or assignee of the building of the presence of asbestos in the building.
  • In addition, to ensure safety of asbestos handling and prevent damage caused by asbestos exposure, owners of asbestos-containing buildings are required to comply with the asbestos management standards and to appoint a safety manager for the building and notify such appointment to the relevant government authorities.
  • The chief of the relevant authorities must disclose to the public any asbestos removal and/or asbestos abatement work undertaken in their relevant jurisdiction. Any person or entity undertaking the asbestos removal or asbestos abatement works are required to comply with the asbestos emission standards.

Based on the foregoing, the companies handling asbestos-containing products must ensure that all asbestos-related laws and regulations are fully observed. In addition, it would be advisable for such companies to make sure whether any building or structure that they currently own or occupy is subject to mandatory asbestos inspection and take appropriate measures to comply with the relevant asbestos management standards.

By Yoon Jeong Lee and Jeong Hwan Park of Kim & Chang

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