June 23, 2009

S.Korea defends lithium battery rules

South Korea's plans to improve safety of rechargeable lithium batteries are not meant to restrict trade but address public concerns, an official said Tuesday.

Under new South Korean rules, which reportedly have raised concerns in Japan, all lithium battery products in mobile phones, laptop computers and portable devices will be subject to stringent safety rules to test their ability to withstand heat, high humidity and impact, Yonhap news agency reported. The rules become effective next month.

The new rules are in response to steady public demand for safer products, said Song Jae-bin, head of product safety at the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards. They apply to both local and foreign companies, so are not discriminatory.

South Korea had sent details of its safety plans in October to World Trade Organization members, and no objections have been raised, Song said, Yonhap reported.

The report said there had been some news stories saying Japan, which has 60 percent of the percent of the world's lithium battery market, feels the new rules could hurt its presence in the South Korean market, which could be a violation of WTO rules on fair trade.

Song was quoted as saying accredited overseas laboratories could conduct all tests and issue safety certificates.