In Korea, the chemical substances are managed by 14 legislations in 7 ministries according to the purposes of their uses and properties.

The Ministry of Environment is enacting and operating 「Toxic Chemicals Control Act」 to protect public health from the chemical substances and to manage the toxic chemical substances. The 「Toxic Chemicals Control Act」 is a basic Act for chemicals control in Korea and aims at controlling the harmfulness of chemical substances, safety management of toxic chemicals, investigation of emission and distribution of chemical substances, response to accidents related to chemical substances. The management system followed by 「Toxic Chemicals Control Act」 is as follows. 

 Management system of chemical substances in Korea

The Toxic Chemicals Control Act prescribes that chemicals are divided into phases such as manufacturing․importation, use and disposal of chemicals or prior management (before manufacturing and import declaration) and post management (after manufacturing and import declaration) to manage them. First the ingredient of chemical should be confirmed before enterence into the market; once it has been confirmed as a poisonous substances through the risk assessment, it is to be designated as a poisonous substances at the distribution stage to minimize their chances of being released into the environment.

Identification System of Chemical Substance

According to the wholly revised the Toxic Chemicals Control Act at the end of 2004, any person who intends to manufacture or import chemicals shall identify the presence of chemical subject to regulation including poisonous substances and then submits the report; the chemical identification system has been established and implemented in earnest since January 1, 2006.

In February, 2012, the exemption system was improved for those products maintaining its shape and function created from manufacturing process to final utilization process and its utilization process doesn't emit any chemicals (enforced on February, 2013), putting efforts for settlement of chemical identification system and improvement of its performance.

In September, 2011, the toxic chemicals (poisonous substances, substances under observation, restricted or prohibited substance) were reflected to the 「integrated announcement」 of the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy, which determines condition and procedure of importation. 

Implementation of 'Non-Phase-in Chemicals' Safety Test

'Existing Chemicals' refer to chemicals distributed in the country before the enforcement of 「Toxic Chemicals Control Act」 (February 2, 1991) and announced by the Minister of Environment on December 23, 1996 and also chemicals that has gone through examination of toxicity since February 2, 1991 and announced by the Minister of Environment (43,580 types as from the end of 2011). Since the chemicals, which were announced on December 23, 1996 were approved as chemicals already distributed without a close verification on toxicity of the substances, the examination of toxicity on above substances might be very important to prevent any problems caused by unidentified toxicity in advance. The Ministry of Environment has been conducting a toxicity test (or safety test) on about 20 types of existing chemicals since 1988, before the enactment of the 「Toxic Chemicals Control Act」. According to the result, the Ministry designated substances that are either poisonous or under observation to mange them. Since the end of 2011, the total of 610 types of chemicals underwent a toxicity test; 55 types and 6 types have been designated as poisonous substances or substances under observation, respectively.

If the data on chemical substances are not enough domestically and internationally, it utilizes existing data without additional toxicity test to designate substance as poisonous or under observation (or ex officio examination); as from the end of 2010, a total of 488 types of chemical substances were examined, while about 398 types have been designated as poisonous and 8 types have been designated as substances under observation.

The OECD is also promoting risk assessment project (SIDS: Screening Information Data Set) on existing chemicals from mass production through  cooperation among member countries. Korea is also participating in the project after joining the OECD in 1996. Korea has been preparing early SIDS reports for 25 chemicals as from September, 2012, and has submitted reports on one or two types of chemicals every year since 2001.

The Ministry of Environment translates various risk information and assessment data on major substances from OECD's SIDS final reports into Korean language and publishes them on the Chemicals Information System ( to be easily utilized by related industries and experts.

Implementation of risk screening on 'New Chemicals Substances'

'New Chemicals' refer to chemicals already in use overseas but has no record of domestic distribution and the ones that are firstly produced or imported to Korea. Unlike the existing chemicals, new chemicals are not yet determined or designated for management as poisonous substances under the Toxic Chemicals Control Act. Therefore, such substances are required to go through a risk assessment according to Article 10 under the Toxic Chemicals Control Act. If the chemical(s) turns out to be toxic or concerned to have toxicity according to the standards of Article 2 of the enforcement degrees under the Toxic Chemicals Control Act, the chemical(s) would be designated and announced as poisonous substances or substances under observation.

The number of items for intial examination of toxicity was 6 (acute toxicity, genotoxicity, degradability, acute toxicity from fish․water flea․birds). However, 3 more items (eye irritation, skin irritation and skin sensitivity) were added in 2009, enabling assesment at advanced country level.

From 1991 to 2011, the risk assessments for total 6,559 types of new chemical substances were performed; among them, 182 types were designated as poisonous substances and 56 types were designated as substances under observation.

In the future, it is assumed that more poisonous substances will be newly designated as new chemicals that are continuously imported to Korea. The Ministry of Environment will take legal actions against those products or import new substances without an examination and also continuously tighten the management of new chemicals through institutional measures, including prohibition order of chemical sales or uses.  

Last modified : 2013-10-29 17:40

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