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Amendments to Reform the Chemical Substance Management System


As part of its innovation of environmental regulations, the Ministry of Environment (“MOE”) has continuously reformed the chemical substance management system by gathering opinions from the stakeholders, such as industry and civic groups, via the “Chemical Safety Policy Forum,” a public-private partnership. In this regard, the National Assembly passed proposed amendments (“Amendments”) to the Act on Registration and Evaluation of Chemical Substances (“K-REACH”) and the Chemical Substances Control Act (“CSCA”). Although the Amendments will take effect one and a half years from the official publication (to be determined), some provisions will separately take effect on a designated date (as described below). Key details of the revised chemical substance management system are as follows:


Improved Registration and Declaration of Chemical Substances

  • The registration threshold for non-phase-in chemical substances will be adjusted from the current 0.1 tons to 1 ton per year. The new threshold, which reflects international standards such as the EU standard, will take effect on January 1, 2025 (Article 10, Paragraphs 1 and 4 of the K-REACH).

  • The Minister of Environment will be able to review the appropriateness of the classification and labeling of reported chemical substances (Article 19-2 of the K-REACH).

  • Information on the registered or declared chemical substances, such as the name and hazards, will be disclosed to the public, and anyone may request for correction or supplementation of the disclosed information (Article 42 of the K-REACH).


Revised Designation and Management System of Toxic Substances

  • The designation and management system for toxic substances will be amended so that toxic substances will be further classified based on the nature of toxicity: (i) acute hazardous substances (causing effects from short-term exposure), (ii) chronic hazardous substances (causing effects from repeated exposure or after long-term latency period), and (iii) ecologically hazardous substances (causing effects to the environment, such as aquatic organisms). In addition, “permitted substances,” “restricted substances,” and “prohibited substances” will be excluded from the definition of “hazardous chemical substances” (Article 2, Items 6 through 6-3 of the K-REACH; Article 2, Items 2 through 2-3 and 7 of the CSCA)

  • The obligation to inspect and diagnose handling facilities will be differentiated based on the risk of accidents and quantities of chemical substances handled. Further, the entity that must report the inspection results for hazardous chemical substance handling facilities will be changed from the facility operators to the inspection agencies that conducted the inspections (Article 24 of the CSCA). The differentiated obligations to inspect and diagnose handling facilities are as follows.

Facilities that only handle chronic hazardous substances will be exempt from regular inspections.

Facilities that handle hazardous chemical substances below certain standards (which will later be determined through a MOE Ordinance) based on factors, such as hazards and quantities of chemical substances handled, will be exempt from installation inspections and regular inspections.

Facilities with little to no risk of hazardous chemical substance leakage (which will later be determined through a MOE Notification), such as those with hazardous chemical substance(s) built into a machine, will be exempt from installation inspections, regular inspections, and ad hoc inspections.

  • Hazardous chemical substance businesses that operate under a permit will be able to operate simply by reporting if the risk of accident or quantities of hazardous chemical substances to be handled is low (Article 28, Paragraph 6 of the CSCA). Further, anyone that files a report for hazardous chemical substance business and for reagent sales business will be included in the scope of hazardous chemical substance business operators in addition to business operators with a permit for hazardous chemical substance business. Such business operators will be subject to the obligation to file a report on outsourcing (Article 31 of the CSCA), obligation to appoint a hazardous chemical substance supervisor (Article 32 of the CSCA), and obligation to conduct safety trainings (Article 33 of the CSCA).


Other Amendments

  • Designated wastes under the Wastes Control Act (“WCA”) are excluded from the scope of the CSCA, which will take effect upon the promulgation of the Amendments. Accordingly, the disposal, collection, and transportation of designated wastes, including hazardous chemical substances, will be uniformly managed under the WCA (Article 3, Paragraph 1, Item 15 of the CSCA).

  • Substances without any information on hazards will be presumed to be hazardous until confirmed otherwise and business operators are now required to take appropriate measures to prevent any harm to human health or the environment (Article 5, Paragraph 6 of the K-REACH).

  • If anyone becomes aware of a data leakage, such as leakage of protected data (e.g., composition of chemical substances) under Article 45, Paragraph 1 of the K-REACH or damages to the data storage facilities/equipment, such person must notify the Minister of Environment without delay. Anyone who fails to do so may be subject to an administrative fine not exceeding KRW 3 million (Article 45-3 and Article 54, Paragraph 2 of K-REACH).

The Amendments introduced a chemical substance management system based on the characteristics of hazards and relaxed many of the regulations while introducing new obligations. Since the Amendments are expected to have a real impact on the businesses, it is necessary to fully assess potential risks and business opportunities by analyzing the new amendments and continuously monitoring the lower regulations that are expected to be promulgated in the near future.


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