Seoul partners with private institutes to curb imports of harmful materials

By Park Sae-jin Posted : May 24, 2024, 18:01 Updated : May 28, 2024, 15:34
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[Getty Images Bank]

SEOUL, May 24 (AJU PRESS) - The Seoul Metropolitan Government has partnered with three private institutes to conduct screening for harmful materials in products purchased by Korean costumers from foreign websites, such as toys, accessories, and clothing, it said Friday.

The capital city said in a press release that it joined hands with the three institutes -- the Korea Conformity Laboratories (KCL), specializing in the fields of construction and energy environment, the Korea Apparel Testing and Research Institute (KATRI), a textile and fabric testing specialist, and the FITI Testing & Research Institute, an inspection and testing institute for consumer products -- to inspect foreign consumer products.

The partnership aims to ensure the safety of imported foreign products, particularly those used by children. The city said it will notify the public immediately if any concerning results are found.

Seoul's decision to work with these specialized institutes came after public outcry in April over the safety of consumer products purchased through foreign websites. In early May, excessive levels of harmful substances, including lead and banned chemicals were found in children's toys and stationery items sold on Chinese e-commerce platforms like Aliexpress.

While Korea's relevant laws require sellers and importers of children's products to obtain safety certificates, this requirement does not apply to products purchased directly from overseas online retailers. Nevertheless, the trend of buying things directly from foreign shopping malls remains popular among savvy Koreans seeking affordable products. According to data, such spending reached a record-high 6.7 trillion won in 2023, with over 50 percent of purchases made on Chinese platforms like Aliexpress and Temu.

"The latest agreement marks the beginning of establishing a multifaceted cooperation system and will serve as a proactive model for ensuring the safety of citizens more thoroughly," Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said in a statement, adding, "Consumer choice must be fully respected, but we are responsible for protecting the safety of citizens."
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