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South Korea Unveils Ambitious Reforms in Chemicals Policies, including K-REACH, to Foster Innovation and Environmental Protection

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The South Korean government has unveiled a series of ambitious reforms in its chemicals policies aimed at striking a balance between fostering innovation and ensuring robust environmental protection. Key highlights:

1. Environmental Impact Assessment Overhaul: One of the primary objectives of the reform is to revolutionize the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. Instead of rigid, one-size-fits-all standards, the government will now prioritize flexibility and customization. This means that the level of scrutiny and assessment will be directly proportional to the potential environmental impact. This change is expected to significantly reduce the time and financial resources spent on EIAs, making it easier for businesses to navigate the regulatory landscape.

2. Harmonization with International Standards: South Korea is set to align its chemicals legislation with international standards, particularly those of the European Union (EU). Under the new regulations, the threshold for mandatory registration of new chemicals will be raised. Currently, chemicals with a production or import quantity above 1 tons must be registered; this threshold will be elevated to 1 ton or more, simplifying compliance for lower-volume substances. The move is intended to promote consistency in global chemical management practices and facilitate international trade.

3. Differential Management of Hazardous Substances: Another significant reform involves the differential management of hazardous substances. Previously, a uniform approach was applied, but now, toxicity and handling volume will be considered when determining regulatory requirements. This shift acknowledges that not all hazardous substances pose the same level of risk, allowing for more precise and targeted management.

These reforms should come into force as early as 2024.

Minister Han Hwajin of the Ministry of Environment, a driving force behind these reforms, stated, "Our goal is to create a regulatory environment that fosters innovation and growth for businesses while ensuring that our natural environment remains protected. These reforms will not only reduce red tape but also bolster our country's competitiveness in the global chemicals industry."

Link to MoE press release (in korean)


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