Firms recall more goods following Toyota case
By Park Si-soo
More companies in Korea have voluntarily recalled flawed products in the wake of the historic Toyota case in 2010, government statistics showed Wednesday.
Yet, the number of forced recalls by the state fair-trade regulator also continues to rise, which experts say reveals a lack of corporate morality and raises the call for tougher measures against unethical firms.
Such a trend was proven in a comprehensive analysis by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) between 2010 and 2011. The FTC collected related cases in the fields of medicine, food, and automobiles and other manufactured goods in cooperation with some 20 central and regional government offices.
There were 848 recalls (voluntary and forced) in 2010 and 826 last year, up from 495 throughout 2009.
The sudden increase took place shortly after Japan’s Toyota started to recall numerous vehicles to correct a possible incorrect or out-of-place front driver’s side floor mat that affected the accelerator pedal at the end of 2009.
The number of companies voluntarily recalling what they describe as problematic products has sharply rocketed since the Toyota mishap.
In 2009, the number of voluntary recalls stood at merely 158. But it made a big jump to 356 the following year and reached a record high of 362 in 2011.
Toyota voluntarily recalled roughly 13,000 Camry, Camry Hybrid and Lexus models in Korea starting April 2010 for possible problems with their braking system, according to the FTC.
Renault Samsung also recalled 120,000 SM3 and SM5 models in April last year for possible malfunction of their airbag system, it said. SK Chemicals recalled its medicine for arthritis in July 2010 after discovering problem with the external coating, it added.
The statistics showed a continued upward trend of forced recalls by the FTC and other state regulators.
In 2006, the number of forced recalls stood at only nine. But it snowballed to 337 in 2009 and reached an unprecedented mark of 492 in 2010. Last year saw a slight drop to 464, the FTC said. Renault Samsung was ordered to recall 270 of its SM3s last year for interior parts that had materials vulnerable to heat, it said.
Small-sized food producers have been frequently subject to forced recalls.
A local tofu producer, named Samwon, was instructed to withdraw germ-tainted tofu in July last year, which was in nationwide circulation. Another small producer of salted radish had to dispose of all its products last August due to high contamination with sulfur dioxide.
“I’m pleased to see the increase of voluntary recalls,” said Kim Jeong-ki, director of the consumer safety and information division at the FTC. “However, we still have long way to go, considering the mounting number of forced recalls.”