Korea to reassess iPhone 12 for radiation issues following France’s sales ban

Posted on : 2023-09-18 16:51 KST Modified on : 2023-09-18 16:51 KST
A French regulatory agency found that devices far exceeded domestic electromagnetic radiation absorption rate standards
People hold up two iPhone 12 models at a store upon their release in Korea in November 2020. (Yonhap)
People hold up two iPhone 12 models at a store upon their release in Korea in November 2020. (Yonhap)

In the wake of the French government’s unexpected decision to suspend sales of Apple’s iPhone 12 smartphone series as of Sept. 12 due to the items exceeding electromagnetic wave absorption rate standards, South Korean regulatory authorities also plan to look into whether iPhones meet the standards for electromagnetic radiation.

After the French study showed the devices to far exceed domestic standards, Apple’s only response was to issue an update for French iPhones. Now the move to reexamine the devices’ electromagnetic radiation appears to be spreading to countries such as Belgium and South Korea.

The South Korean government said it plans to implement proactive measures — including a possible suspension of sales — if issues are discovered.

The Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) announced Sunday that it plans to reexamine iPhone electromagnetic radiation levels after French regulatory authorities ordered a suspension of sales, citing electromagnetic radiation absorption rates in excess of the standards for the iPhone 12 smartphones launched by Apple in 2020.

The MSIT noted that all Apple iPhone models had received a suitability assessment verification showing that they met international standards for electromagnetic wave safety prior to being put on the market. It went on to say that it planned to proceed with a reexamination in order to allay the public’s fears.

On Wednesday, the MSIT and National Radio Research Agency (NRRA) reportedly demanded a situation report from Apple, viewing the French government’s suspension of iPhone sales as a matter of “reporting of unconformity” according to Article 58-11 of the Radio Waves Act.

In the near future, the NRRA plans to acquire samples of four iPhone 12 series models currently on the market — the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 mini, and iPhone 12 Pro Max — to conduct a thorough investigation for compliance with electromagnetic wave technology standards, with findings to be announced publicly.

If the reexamination finds the devices to indeed exceed electromagnetic radiation absorption rate standards, a suspension of imports and sales could be implemented in accordance with Article 58-4 of the Radio Waves Act, the MSIT said.

The specific absorption rate (SAR) standard used by the French government for its decision to suspend iPhone 12 sales represents the amount of radio wave energy absorbed by the human body. It is measured in watts per kilogram (W/kg), showing the amount of radio wave energy observed per kilogram of mass in the human body.

South Korea’s standard of 1.6 W/kg is more stringent than the recommended international standard. If the NRRA examination shows the devices to exceed that rate, a sales ban will be imposed.

France, which suspended sales of all devices in the iPhone 12 series, adopted the EU standard of 4 W/kg.

France’s National Frequency Agency explained that when a sample of 141 iPhone 12 devices currently on the French market were examined for the rate of electromagnetic wave absorption by the human body when they were pressed up against an ear or kept in a pants pocket, the level was found to be 5.74 W/kg.

Shortly after the French regulatory authorities moved to ban iPhone 12 sales, Apple shared a message stressing that the French research findings had to do with the specific test protocols used by those authorities and were not associated with safety issues. It also said it planned to address the issue through a software update for French users.

It amounts to a half-hearted response from the company, which intends to reduce the radiation through software capable of adjusting the way in which the hardware operates.

Elsewhere in Europe, Belgium announced plans on Friday to reinvestigate the electromagnetic wave levels associated with the iPhone 12 series. Now South Korea is following suit.

By Lim Ji-sun, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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