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Sidewalk robots, new visa among 51 regulatory reforms

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (center) visits the headquarters of a local robotics company, called Robtis, in Seoul in June. The government mulls regulatory easing to speed up the market debut of sidewalk robots for delivery. (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (center) visits the headquarters of a local robotics company, called Robtis, in Seoul in June. The government mulls regulatory easing to speed up the market debut of sidewalk robots for delivery. (Yonhap)
The government on Thursday unveiled a total of 51 regulatory reform projects across industries as part of effort to spur both innovation and investment.

Easing excessive regulations is one of the campaign pledges of President Yoon Suk-yeol. Thursday’s announcement is the first batch of the plans following the launch of a new task force, led by Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho, last month.

Six areas, including new industries, environment, bio and health care, are subject to the deregulation push, and the efforts are expected to lead to new investments worth 1.6 trillion won ($1.23 billion) immediately.

The government plans to ease regulations for the industrial adoption of robots, paving the way for Hyundai Heavy Industries to build a 320 billion won smart shipyard. Despite the full potential of their role in the shipbuilding industry, the approval has been delayed due to complicated safety requirements, including those not directly related to safety at worksites.

A business classification code for a plastic recycling facility will be revised to allow LG Chem to go ahead with it’s a new pyrolysis factory plant within a national industrial complex in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province.

The plant aims to recycle plastic waste with an annual capacity of 20,000 metric tons by 2024. Adding to the immediate 300 billion won investment planned, an additional 1 trillion won is expected to be invested in the field by 2030.

Other measures are also expected to be introduced to lower the entry barrier of new industries and accelerate innovation.

Under current laws, delivery robots are recognized as “cars” subject to a host of safety regulations. Related rules will be eased to speed up the mass market debut of sidewalk robots that make deliveries using the sidewalk. The government expected the robots to help reduce logistics costs for businesses overall.

Registrations for drones will get easier, with testing being carried out on model types, not all the products.

In order to meet the demand for faster and more convenient charging of electric vehicles, safety rules will be presented to open the market for mobile chargers.

When it comes to the healthcare sector, body waste like teeth and fat can be used for medicines and quasi-drugs. Waste from the fat suction industry can be used for collagen production but that has not been legally allowable.

Distribution channels for dietary supplements are expected to be diversified as retailers like large supermarket chains and department stores are allowed to sell the products without separate approval process.

Requirements for production facilities will be eased across industries. For the semiconductor industry, new safety rules will be introduced regarding their handling of toxic chemicals. When it comes to globally standardized production facilities, local requirements will be streamlined to speed the approval process.

More benefits are expected to be offered for recycling used plastics. Thus far, due to a lack of regulatory support, they cannot be effectively recycled despite their use in raw materials for petrochemical products.

New visa programs to attract foreign talent were also unveiled.

A new E-7-S visa will be introduced to attract high-income earners and those working in high-tech industries to offer them more job opportunities in Korea.

A new intern visa, called D-10-3, will be launched to allow foreign nationals studying at foreign schools to work as interns at Korean tech companies.

“Regulatory reform should not be a one-off event but a task of our time that we should work on through the five years (of President Yoon Suk-yeol’s term) for our future,” the minister said.

“The task force has been looking into many more issues, other than the 51 measures announced today. We will accelerate our deregulation move to achieve greater innovation.”

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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