South Korea: Tracking System for Chemicals on the Way

The State Council of South Korea has approved the implementation of a tracking system for chemicals along with the related modification of the Chemical Control Act (CCA). The draft (in Korean) was presented at the start of April and will now be presented to Parliament. The South Korean Ministry of Environment (MoE) has issued a press release (in Korean) on the matter.

The MoE suggested establishment of such a tracking system as early as May of last year. Politicians hope that the system would create transparency to identify chemicals more quickly and to be able to react in a moretargeted manner in the event of accidents. It is particularly difficult to obtain hazard information for the approximately 8,000 chemicals that are marketed in quantities under one ton and are therefore not subject to K-REACH. 

The ramp-up to the implementation includes assignment of a tracking number (a 15–20-digit code) to all hazardous chemicals manufactured in or imported into the country. The code provides information on the reporting year, the serial number, the country of manufacture, the toxicity of the substance, and whether the substance is part of a mixture or an individual chemical. Companies that manufacture or import these chemicals must place the code on the packaging and the product itself. With this approach, the journey of the substance along the supply and application chains can be traced and monitored at all times.

In the current National Trade Estimate Report (S.318-319), USTR, the United States criticized the planned tracking system. The report states that confidential business information (CBI) is not protected when the components of chemical mixtures must be revealed. It also states that if U.S. exporters cannot meet the requirements of South Korea, exports to the country would probably be reduced. Nevertheless, the United States, says the report, would work together with South Korean authorities to implement the requirements of the law.In the meantime, the South Korean MoE has reacted to the concerns of the USTR (in Korean) and clarified that the law protects CBI at all times: 

  • When tracking a chemical, only the tracking code is visible, not the information that the code represents 
  • The information is given only to the government and not, as previously, to the Korea Chemicals Management Association (KCMA) 

At the same time, the Ministry confirmed that it would examine submissions in terms of data protection and would exchange information in close cooperation with industry when implementing any measures.

Please note that as part of K-REACH, materials can be preregistered until June 30.  

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