Korea Enacts Chemical Safety “REACH” Program

May 28, 2014 | Energy, Natural Resources & Utilities


When Korea approved its Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals (known as Korea REACH), it joined China as one of the first Asian countries to adopt a European Union type (EU) regulation aimed at ensuring chemical safety through a system of chemical registration and reporting. The law is scheduled to come into force on January 1, 2015.

Korea REACH shares with EU REACH the annual tonnage threshold of one metric ton for new and existing substances. Manufacturers, importers, and downstream users of more than one metric ton of chemicals per year are required to make annual reports about the use and amount of such chemicals to the Korean Ministry of Environment (MoE). Similar to EU REACH, the law also requires registration of chemicals and submission of data to the MoE. Manufacturers and importers of any new chemical or designated existing chemicals in quantities of one ton or more per year must submit registrations or receive an exemption from registration. It is not currently known which existing chemicals will be subject to the registration requirement. The MoE had stated an intention to initially select 2,000 chemicals for registration.

The MoE intends to evaluate registered chemicals that are manufactured or imported in volumes of more than 10 tons per year to determine if these chemicals should be designated as toxic substances. This may lead to limitations on the manufacture of certain chemicals, although the exact criteria for restricting production of chemicals under Korea REACH have not been determined.

By comparison, China’s version of REACH is limited to new chemical substances (i.e., those chemicals not listed in China’s Inventory of Existing Chemical Substances). The producer or importer must submit a notification prior to the production or import of the new substances. The entity notifying the government must be an institution registered in China, and the Chinese government must issue a registration certificate before the substance can be produced, imported, processed, or used.

Korea REACH allows businesses to withhold ingredient composition, handling volumes, and other sensitive and trade secret information from registration. To ease compliance, a foreign company may appoint a qualified representative to fulfill South Korean compliance on its behalf.

Laboratory chemicals used for research and development purposes are exempt from registration under Korea REACH. Low-volume chemicals will be eligible for short-form registration as well as expedited registration notification.

While details are still being worked out regarding implementation and compliance with Korea REACH, businesses involved in developing, manufacturing, importing, or using chemical substances should begin giving consideration to compliance with Korea REACH. Compliance will likely require establishing “consortia” of producers to fund required chemical studies.

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