Plans for Korea's First Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing Welcomed by Humane Society International

Korea is to develop its first national centre of excellence for the development and validation of alternatives to animal testing. Humane Society International, which works with governments and scientists in Korea and globally to replace animals in research, says this will dramatically improve Korea's ability to implement cutting-edge science.

The Be Cruelty-Free Korea campaign to end cosmetics animal testing, run by HSI and Korea Animal Rights Advocates, identified increasing Korea's alternatives development capabilities as one of its key strategic objectives when it launched in 2012. 

The Centre is expected to be completed by 2016, at which point it will join similar centres in Brazil, Europe, Japan and the United States in playing a central role in driving momentum in non-animal research. With 166 billion Korean Won (US$145 million) allocated to the project, the centre will focus on developing new microbial, cell, tissue and in silico approaches that can replace, reduce or refine the use of animals.

Troy Seidle, HSI's director of research and toxicology, said: “We are delighted to see the Korean government implementing one of our Be Cruelty-Free campaign's priority goals. Increasing Korea's investment in modern, human-relevant research and testing infrastructures  will accelerate the replacement of animals in cosmetics and chemicals safety testing, as well as biomedical research. Korea's new K-REACH chemicals regulation and Europe's sales ban on newly animal-tested cosmetics mean that replacing time-consuming, costly and often unreliable  animal tests with more advanced technologies is more important than ever.”

South Korea has limited facilities for the development or validation of non-animal test methods. Globally regulations for cosmetics and chemical safety assessments contain time and accuracy demands beyond what traditional animal tests can meet. For example, Korea's EU REACH-style chemicals regulation will require all new chemicals to undergo testing. Traditional animal methods take many years at a huge welfare cost to countless animals and produce results of questionable relevance to humans. Increasing Korea's capacity to switch to a more streamlined and human-relevant test strategy is essential.

The 2013 European Union ban on selling newly animal-tested cosmetics is also a powerful incentive for change. Korean companies still developing and testing their new ingredients and products using animal tests are prohibited from selling them in the world's largest beauty market. Nationally, there is equal pressure for Korea to join the alternatives revolution. HSI's Be Cruelty-Free Korea campaign continues to make the case for a cosmetics animal test ban similar to those in Europe, India and Israel.

Borami Seo from KARA said: “A Korean non-animal alternatives centre is a significant step in the right direction that will bring exciting scientific, economic and consumer protection benefits. Many of these new test methods represent cutting-edge technology. By enabling companies and scientists to have greater access to these methods, not only will the quality of Korean research be improved but Korea's scientists will also be able to play their part in the exciting and lucrative global endeavour to create the human-relevant science tools of the future.”

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