Junk food makers may face taxes to cover the cost of additional healthcare expenditure on obesity-related illnesses.
Independent Rep. Moon Dae-sung submitted a bill Tuesday to control sales of high-calorie and low-nutrient foods which threaten the public health.
"Rep. Moon's bill is aimed at preventing obesity-related diseases which saddle society with high medical costs," said Choi Hye-rim, Moon's assistant. Moon is a taekwando Olympic gold medalist, who recently came under fire for plagiarizing his doctoral thesis.
The cost of treating obesity was nearly 1.8 trillion won ($1.6 billion) in 2011, according to the state-run Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.
Moon's office said products subject to the tax would be those high in calories and low in nutrients registered by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which has so far designated a total of 1,673 products including hamburgers, cookies and chocolates.
The bill leaves tax rates to the discretion of the government through presidential decrees.
A number of developed countries have passed similar bills over the last few years.
Denmark, France and Hungary are among the countries that impose taxes on fat foods.
Some U.S. states and Canada also levy taxes on obesity-related products, such as soft drinks, candies and snacks. In Asia, Taiwan has similar legislation.
Korea currently does not have such a tax, even though it regulates the times for the advertisement of junk foods products. It levies a 354 won tax on cigarettes per pack for public health purposes.
Medical experts welcomed the bill, hoping that it will help reduce excessive consumption of junk food.
"We recommend that obese people consume fat at levels of no more than one quarter of their whole calorific intake and avoid having food with trans-fats," the Korean Society for the Study of Obesity said in a statement.
According to the organization, obesity is one of the key causes of a wide range of diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and breast cancer among others.