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South Korea Called Off Exemptions for Four VOCs Used as Diluents

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On June 18, 2023, the South Korean National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER) published a Notice on amending the guidance for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) content, containers, and labels. In this Notice, exemptions for the following four substances used as lacquer thinners are partly canceled:

  • Acetone;
  • Dimethyl carbonate;
  • t-butyl acetate; and
  • 2-amino-2-methyl-1-propanol.

Grounds for amendment

NIER revealed that some companies are suspected of violating air pollutants reduction agreements voluntarily signed between the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and the coating industry by illegally manufacturing and selling basecoat paints for automotive maintenance in large quantities.

Although the VOCs concentration in coatings meet the relevant standard (below 200 grams per liter (g/L)), however, these companies were using the “exempted substances for VOCs” by diluting exempted VOCs including acetone, dimethyl carbonate, t-butyl acetate, and 2-amino-2-methyl-1-propanol and thereby claiming that they met the requirements. They didn’t distinguish whether the paints are oil-based coatings or water-based coatings.


This amendment made it clear that exemption for the above four VOCs does not apply to basecoat, which is widely used for automotive maintenance. Therefore, any act that violates this standard (200g/L) may result in penalties as stipulated by the Clean Air Conservation Act, including a maximum penalty of one year of imprisonment or a fine not exceeding ten million Korean won.

NIER emphasized that they will rigorously manage VOCs commonly used in household coatings, making every effort to safeguard public health and safety and keep them away from the danger of air pollutants. This initiative also pushes the South Korean coating industry to become more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

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Further Information

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