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What is the impact of the Serious Accidents Punishment Act (SAPA) in Korea?

On October 20, 2021, we were pleased to welcome experts from Kim & Chang to better understand implications of the SAPA for top management liability.

On October 20, 2021, we were pleased to welcome experts from Kim & Chang to better understand implications of the SAPA for CEO and top management liabilities. 

The French-Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) and the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KGCCI) have joined together to organize a member-to-member informative session and invited several experts: Kyson Keebong PAEK​, Attorney, Sung-Min WON​, Foreign Attorney, Heon-Yup LEE​, Foreign Attorney, moderated by Philippe LI​, FKCCI Honorary Chairman & Foreign Attorney, and Martin KAGERBAUER​, Foreign Attorney at Kim & Chang. 

The Serious Accidents Punishment Act (SAPA) law was passed in Korea in January this year to ensure a safe and healthy workplace but presented some blind spots. Now that the enforcement decree is known, more details were disclosed by the Korean authorities which will have considerable impact for companies and their top management who will have to review their current health and safety system. 

The enforcement decree will take effect from January 27th, 2022 for companies of 50+ employees and on January 27th, 2024 for companies between 5 and 49 employees. 

Among significant changes as an addition to the current regime under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the SAPA designates a “Responsible Management Personnel” (RMP) as the top decision-maker liable in case of serious accident (fatality, injury or occupational illness with more than 6 months of medical treatment).  

Liability is triggered in case of serious accident if there is violation of obligations which are detailed in the enforcement decree: to implement a safety and health management system, an accident prevention plan, measures to improve the system if a corrective order was issued, and managerial measures with appropriate training for safety and health.  

Another key change is the introduction of liability in case of serious accident among third-party workers (for example subcontractors such as importers, warehouses, …), depending on the terms of the contract between the company and the subcontractors. 

Therefore, Kim & Chang experts advised companies to review their current safety & health and crisis management systems, as the SAPA will entail revised compliance and risk management strategy. 

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