South Korean National Assembly amends laws regarding chemical control and safety to meet global standards and increase competitiveness - Let's talk bromine
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South Korean National Assembly amends laws regarding chemical control and safety to meet global standards and increase competitiveness

Two of the main laws regarding chemical control and safety in South Korea, the Act on Registration, Evaluation of Chemical Substances (K-REACH) [1] and the Chemical Substances Control Act (CCA) [2], have been officially revised after being approved by the Korean National Assembly during the plenary session on 9 January 2024 [3].

The amendments, which include the following:

  • Adjustment of thresholds for registering new chemicals
  • Differentiation of the obligation for inspection and diagnosis (based on the volume and hazards of chemicals handled in the facilities)
  • Reorganization of toxic substances into three categories (‘acute human toxic substances’, ‘chronic human toxic substances’, and ‘ecological toxic substances’) according to their hazardous characteristics


Aim at better aligning the overall system of Korean chemical regulations with the current global standards, increasing transparency, and facilitating the industry’s activities by lessening financial and administrative burdens. It’s with this in mind that, for instance, the threshold for registering new chemicals has been adjusted from 0.1 ton to 1 ton per year, reflecting current standards in the European Union and Japan.

The same is true for the ‘differentiation of the obligation for inspection and diagnosis’. When the amount of chemicals handled is minimal or the risk is low, the system has now been streamlined by switching from ‘permission’ to ‘reporting’ (a simpler administrative process) to enhance its effectiveness.

The impact of the ‘reorganization of toxic substances’ is instead more difficult to assess. Depending on the actual criteria chosen to classify them, substances will be susceptible of fitting more than one of the three categories and will thus be subject to more ‘tailored’ regulations (i.e. specific to their characteristics). However, since the criteria have not been determined yet – and no specific timeline concerning their development and approval is currently available – uncertainty remains on the actual consequences of the measure.

In this scenario, it will be pivotal to ensure that future criteria for the identification and analysis of potential adverse effects of chemicals will be based on sound science and a risk-based approach, which takes into account exposure. In this way, chemistries which are highly beneficial to society, i.e. Brominated flame retardants that either prevent or slow down ignition – providing more time for people to escape and for fire fighters to intervene – will be allowed to continue play their essential role in protecting people’s lives and property from the threat of fire.

While the outcome will also depend on future amendments to subsidiary legislations, the country’s economic sector has already welcomed the revision, noting how the revised laws now offer proportionate and adequate standards. On the contrary, several environmental groups have expressed their concerns that the revisions might lead to a ‘relaxation’ of the regulations concerning chemical safety, with possible negative consequences.



[1] ‘K-REACH’ was promulgated on 22 May 2013 by the Soth Korean Ministry of Environment (MoE) and regulates the designation of hazardous chemical substances through registration and evaluation.

[2] The CCA was enforced in 2015 to protect public health and prevent environmental harm caused by chemical substances by strengthening the criteria for the handling and management of chemicals.

[3] Their enforcement date will instead depend on the provisions, ranging from immediately after promulgation to 1.5 years after promulgation

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