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Korean REACH Legislation Update

October 2013 - Projects, Energy & Natural Resources. Legal Developments by Kim & Chang .

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On May 22, 2013, the Korean National Assembly officially announced the Act on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances (the "Korean REACH") which the National Assembly passed on April 30, 2013. The Korean REACH will take effect on January 1, 2015. Relative to the earlier version announced in February 2011, the draft bill submitted to the National Assembly in September 2012 was more lenient in its requirements. However, due to increased scrutiny arising from several highly publicized accidents involving chemical substances in recent months, a more stringent version of the Korean REACH has now been passed, which includes reporting requirement for certain products.

The following are the most notable features to the Korean REACH as enacted by the National Assembly.

Reporting and Registration Requirements

Any person who intends to manufacture, import and/or sell all new chemical substances, as well as existing substances of at least 1 ton or more per year, must report its manufacture and import volume on a yearly basis to the Ministry of Environment (the "MOE"). All new chemical substances, as well as existing substances subject to report that are manufactured or imported in quantities of at least 1 ton or more per year, must be registered prior to manufacture or import. Compared to the draft bill, the reporting period has been amended to every year from every two years. Furthermore, in addition to manufacturers and importers, sellers will also be subject to the reporting requirements.

Review of Hazardousness and Risk Assessment, and Designation as Harmful Chemical Substances

The MOE shall assess chemical substances based on its registered materials according to their intrinsic characteristics (hazard) and level of damage following exposure to thereof (risk). Substances posing a substantial hazard will be designated as "poisonous substances," and other harmful substances must be designated as "allowable substances," "restricted substances," or "prohibited substances."

Risk assessment was previously required for chemical substances which are manufactured or imported in quantities of 100 tons or more on a yearly basis. However, the requirement has been amended so that the scope of its application will be gradually expanded, so that by 2020 the requirement will be applied to manufactured or imported quantities of 10 tons.

Product Reporting

When manufacturing or importing a product containing hazardous chemical substances, the manufacturer or importer must now file a report in advance for component chemicals of the product in excess of 1 ton per year per manufacturer or importer.

Risk Assessment on Products

In addition, the MOE will designate and directly conduct risk assessments on products that are deemed to pose a risk to the environment or human health and fall into the following categories: (i) products used by general consumers primarily for household use, such as cleaners, air fresheners, adhesives, polishes, deodorizers, detergents, bleach and fabric softeners; and (ii) those used to eliminate or control hazardous living organisms, such as insect repellents, disinfectants and preservatives. Based on the risk assessment, the MOE will establish safety and labeling requirements for each product category.

More detailed information on how the Korean REACH will be implemented is expected to be specified through presidential and ministerial decrees, and MOE notification. It is advisable for companies handling chemical products to keep alert of evolving trends with regard to enactment of subordinate decrees and regulations.