National Assembly Pushes for Introduction of ‘Preliminary Inspection System of Confidential Business Information of Chemical Substances’

Apr 12, 2017

National Assembly is pushing for revision of Industrial Safety Health Measure, which has introduction of ‘Preliminary Inspection System of Confidential Business Information of Chemical Substances on MSDS’ as its main point, and it is predicted that this will impact many industries.
Domestic and foreign chemical manufacturers and other industries such as semiconductor, display, and automotive industries refuted such revision by saying that it is an ‘excessive regulation’ compared to other advanced countries’ systems. They are worried that their competitive edge in industries will be greatly damaged due to cost of inspection, increase in time, and possible leakage of confidential information. If revised plan is passed, there is a high chance that major technologies of South Korean semiconductor and display manufacturers, which are number 1 in the world, will be leaked.
Shin Chang-hyeon (under National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee), who is a member of The Minjoo Party of Korea, issued a revised plan for laws regarding stoppage in abuse of confidential business information on chemicals on the 6th. Song Ok-joo, Kim Young-joo, and Kang Byeong-won, who are also members of The Minjoo Party of Korea, also put out revised plans for some parts of Industrial Safety Health Measure in October and November of last year based on same object.
MSDS is a document that has necessary information written in order to safely use and manage chemicals. According to current Chemical Management Law and Industrial Safety Health Measure, manufacturers that either supply or receive chemicals need to write MSDS and have it placed at their business places. The main point of preliminary inspection system that is being pushed by members of The Minjoo Party of Korea has businesses to receive approvals from deliberation committee in advance if they want to hide names and contents of chemicals due to confidential business information reasons.
Currently decisions for confidential business information follow Illegal Competition Prevention Law. Information on productions, sales, and businesses that is not made known to public and is maintained as confidential business information with significant effort corresponds to this law. If revised plans are passed, decisions for confidential business information need to be made by deliberation committee. Members of The Minjoo Party of Korea are proposing that deliberation committee will be made up of same number of labor and management. According to Kang Byeong-won’s revised plan, effective duration of information that is recognized as confidential is only 3 years and can be extended for twice more after going through deliberation. After 9 years, it has to be made public.
South Korean industries are opposing against such revised plans. “Even current laws are excessive compared to other advanced countries.” said Director Ahn Ki-hyeon of Korea Semiconductor Industry Association. “When preliminary inspection system is introduced, competitive edge of industries will noticeably drop due to time consumption and cost.” Serious leakage of technologies can happen during an inspection. ‘New materials’ influence competitive edge in processes of high-tech industries such as semiconductor and display industries.
Advanced countries such as the U.S., EU (European Union), and Canada only have to write harmful substances on MSDS according to GHS (Globally Harmonized System) that is recommended by UN (United Nation). EU and Canada even allows harmful substances to be confidential if companies can prove reasons why they need to be confidential through preliminary inspection system. The U.S. Government allows industries to decide on their own on whether or not harmful substances have to be made confidential.
On the other hand, even harmless substances have to be written on MSDS. About 1,060 harmful materials, which are determined by laws, cannot be hidden by a reason of confidential business information. When revised plans are passed, even harmless substances can be made public according to deliberation.
“Reason why there is high confidential business information within MSDS is because even information on harmless materials has to be written on MSDS unlike other advanced countries.” said Kim Hyeong-hyeon who is a member of Korea Employers Federation’s Occupational Safety Team. “Only components and content are made as confidential business information and any other information that is needed for workers is made public.”
“If information on components and content of substances cannot be made confidential, importation of substances that are used as major additives in semiconductor and display industries to South Korea even though amount of supply of these substances is not much can be stopped.” said high-ranking personnel of a foreign chemical manufacturer who required anonymity.
“If deliberation committee believes that there are problems regarding occupational safety according to current laws, doctors, health managers, and representatives of workers can read confidential business information.” said Professor Kim Soo-geun of Seonggyungwan Medical University’s Work Environment Medical Department. “Rather than irrational regulations, research on toxicity of chemicals that are not known must be done first.”
Staff Reporter Han, Juyeop |

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