Disaster management spans actions before, during, and after disaster events. Changes in the roles and functions of local governments before a disaster can influence other stages of disaster management. After a chemical spill in 2012, South Korean hazardous chemical management tasks were returned to the central government and local governments' roles and functions were reduced. To identify associated issues and enhance the hazardous chemical management system, this study analyzed changes in laws and policies and conducted interviews with stakeholders. While the changes helped with centralization, reinforcement, and specification, some loopholes were discovered. The information and human resource capacities of local governments and intra - and intergovernmental relations issues have hindered their active participation before and during chemical disasters. These loopholes can be addressed through institutional enhancements for local governments, such as including them in monitoring hazardous chemical handling facilities, developing codes articulating the division of tasks among departments within them, and providing adequate incentives for them to increase their personnel. This study provides empirical data that informs ongoing debates about the centralization and devolution of disaster management by linking local governments' ordinary management systems to their disaster management activities.