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Lawmakers call on government to tighten auto recall laws

June 13,2019
Lawmakers and experts in the auto industry said the government should amend vague regulations regarding car recalls and establish legal grounds to punish automakers that do not abide by government recall orders in a discussion held Wednesday in Seoul.

The discussion was organized by lawmaker Kim Sang-hoon of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and the Korea Auto-vehicle Safety Association.

Experts and consumer groups that attended echoed the call for vague regulations on recalls to be amended to reduce misunderstandings between different parties.

“According to current law, recalls take place based on a vague statement like ‘when there are defects that disrupt safe driving,’” said Lyou Byung-woon, a professor of international law at Hongik University, during the meeting. “This often causes huge differences in views between automakers, consumers and regulators when judging the need for recalls.”

Lyou said that such vagueness can make carmakers start recalls even without clear grounds just to avoid potential punishment.

“[At the same time,] automakers can simply say the issue is not related to safe driving, no matter how much consumer groups raise the need for recalls,” said Lim Ki-sang, head of a local consumer group whose name translates as “Riding cars for 10 years.”

“For each situation, there should be clear guidelines on what hurts safe driving so automakers cannot avoid their duty to make recalls.”

Participants also raised the need to establish legal grounds to criminally punish automakers that do not abide by corrective orders issued by the government, including forced recall orders.

Under current law, if automakers do not start voluntary recalls despite government recommendations, they are subject to criminal punishment. However, if the government forces automakers to start recalls directly, rather than advising them to introduce voluntary recalls, there are no grounds to punish automakers even if they do not abide by the order, according to Lyou.

“This damages our legal system,” Lyou said. “Like in the United States, we should impose fines on all wrongdoing related to recalls and only impose criminal charges when automakers do not abide by government’s corrective orders.”

Park Sang-hoon, managing partner at law firm Yoon & Yang, also said that imposing criminal penalties based on vague regulations cannot protect consumers and violates the clarity principle of the constitution.

Some also said local recall guidelines should follow global standards.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]