Revision to the Laws & Regulations on Ecosystem-Disturbing Species in the Republic of Korea in 2019

Korean Environmental Law

In order to increase the control on certain species like ‘ecosystem-disturbing species’, which are considered to be harmful to the ecosystem of the Republic of Korea, when it is planned to import and introduce them to the ecological environment of Korea, the Chairman of the Environment and Labor Committee proposed the Amendment to the Korean Act on the Conservation and Use of Biological Diversity (hereinafter as “Act on Biological Diversity”) on September 20, 2018. The new provisions of the Amendment shall become effective September 2019.

Focus of the Act on Biological Diversity

The purpose of the current Act is to “…improve citizens’ quality of life and enhance international cooperation, by promoting comprehensive and systematic conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of biological resources and by prescribing matters on implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity.”

Species, who enter the Republic of Korea may be designated as “ecosystem disturbing species” by the Korean Minister of Environment prior to their introduction to Korea. The current aforementioned Act does not include provisions about the process of an import of such species and other more detailed regulations regarding change of status or breeding of such species. The Amendment shall fill this regulatory gap.

Key-Provisions of the Amendment to the Act on Biological Diversity

The major changes due to the Amendment take place in Chapter V of the existing Act, which deals with the management of “alien species” and “ecosystem disturbing species”:

  • The Minister of Environment may evaluate the risks of species whose entry into the Republic of Korea requires cautious consideration to the country’s ecosystems. If a species is at least likely to cause serious harm to an ecosystem, it shall be designated as an “ecosystem-disturbing species” or a “species presenting potential risk to the ecosystem,” and a public notice shall be issued.
  • A person who plans to import such a species shall obtain approval from the Minister of Environment. When a request for approval has been submitted, a risk assessment of that species shall be conducted. Then it shall be decided, whether that species shall be excluded from those species requiring cautious consideration, or shall be designated and notified as an ecosystem-disturbing species or a species that presents potential risk to an ecosystem.
  • If it has been verified that the risk, or potential risk, of an ecosystem-disturbing species or a species presenting potential risk to an ecosystem has been mitigated due to changes to the habitat, the species’ adaptation to an ecosystem, development of an effective control measure(s), etc., the Minister of Environment may cancel or change the designation of that species following a risk assessment and consultation with the head of a relevant central administrative agency.
  • In general, the release, abandonment, or planting of an ecosystem-disturbing species or a species presenting potential risk to an ecosystem shall be prohibited. Exceptions may be permitted under certain circumstances.
  • Breeding or raising an ecosystem-disturbing species shall be prohibited in principle. Exceptions may be permitted under certain circumstances.

This article is in reaction to a few clients that may have issues in regard to this change in law. Much is still unclear and we shall update the reader when more is known.

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