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Gov’t reverses ban on cross-border goods without KC mark

Gov’t reverses ban on cross-border goods without KC mark

Posted May. 20, 2024 07:50,   

Updated May. 20, 2024 07:50


Faced with the controversy over its recent regulation on overseas direct purchases, the South Korean government said in a joint briefing with related government departments, “Authorities will only restrict products that turn out to be harmful in a safety inspection of 80 categories including kids’ products and household items.” It, in effect, retracted the ban that it announced last Thursday in a joint meeting with related authorities presided over by the prime minister. Back then, it said, “The government will prohibit non-KC products in such 80 categories through cross-border e-commerce deals. As critics argued that the KC mark requirement on overseas goods would violate consumers’ freedom of choice, the government took it back in just three days.

With the cross-border purchase market generating seven trillion won a year, there are growing safety concerns over goods from overseas that do not pass the certification process separately, unlike official import goods. According to the Korea Customs Service’s recent survey of 404 accessories sold in Chinese online shopping malls such as AliExpress and TEMU, 24 percent turned out to contain cancer-causing substances exceeding safety levels. Likewise, in a safety inspection of cross-border goods, Seoul City found out that kids’ decoration items surpassed safety standards of endocrine-disrupting chemicals by more than 270 times; kids’ toys were loaded with humidifier disinfectants. In such circumstances, the government may be unable to sit on its hands.

Nevertheless, it would have been a better idea only to ban items that are found harmful and hold shopping mall websites accountable. As the government acknowledged in the briefing, it is only an excessive regulation or an idea that works for the sake of the government’s convenience that it intends to ban cross-border items just because they don’t have the KC mark. What’s more, buying bargains overseas is the only way to make ends meet for some consumers at a time when a bowl of cold noodle costs them almost 10,000 won. It does not seem like the right way to gain public trust in how the government implements policies if it makes a hasty announcement with a little review of their decisions’ consequences and ripple effect, and abruptly reverses it right after it is met with growing criticism.

Han Dong-hoon, former head of the ruling party’s emergency response committee, wrote on a social media platform, “The measure needs to be revisited because consumers’ right to choose can face excessive limitations.” Former lawmaker Yoo Seung-min bashed it as an “absurd policy,” adding that it throws the baby out with the bathwater, while incoming lawmaker Na Kyung-won commented that the decision had been made without carefully reviewing any negative effect of implementing it hastily. Not until the policy decision came under fire, did they all belatedly make critical remarks, which might have otherwise come right after it was announced. Given that they are likely to vie for party leadership, they do not seem right.