Everything you need to know when exporting to South Korea

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Sunrise of Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, South Korea.

When exporting products to South Korea, it's important to be aware of the country's unique laws and regulations. While the requirements may vary depending on the product, there are a few general things to keep in mind. 

In this article, we'll provide a comprehensive guide on South Korea’s export regulations so you can navigate exporting to South Korea with ease.

Why export to South Korea? 

The South Korean economy is the 4th largest in Asia and 10th in the world. The country is a world leader in numerous industries including electronics, shipbuilding, steel, and automotive, making it an attractive market for businesses looking to expand. 

According to the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ratings, South Korea ranks 5th out of 190 countries in terms of how easy it is to do business. Annual imports are also on the rise, hitting an all-time high in 2021 with over US$600 billion. It’s no wonder that businesses in Singapore and beyond are drawn to the vast opportunities and potential that South Korea has to offer.

On top of that, South Korea has free trade agreements with 17 countries, including Singapore, the US, ASEAN, and the EU. The Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (KSFTA) was signed on 2 March 2006, immediately giving a significant percentage of Singapore’s total exports tariff-free access to South Korea.

Important trade regulations and customs information 

1. Essential documents & labels 

For starters, all commercial shipments entering South Korea must have a country of origin label. If you’re planning to export products such as food and pharmaceuticals to South Korea, you will need further labelling to meet the requirements set by the respective government agencies. 

As for the documentation requirements for exporting freight, make sure you have these fundamental documents: import declaration, commercial invoice, packing list, bill of lading, and certificate of origin. 

The Certificate of Origin, in particular, should include the following details written either in English or Korean:

  1. Name and contact information for the certifying person

  2. The importer

  3. The exporter

  4. The producer of the good

  5. Harmonized System Tariff classification and description of the good

  6. Place of origin

  7. Quantity

  8. Date of the certification

For more information on import clearance and the necessary documents to clear South Korean customs without a hitch, you may visit the Korean Customs Service website.

2. Sales tax

All Korean imports are subject to a flat 10% Value Added Tax (VAT). Certain luxury items and durable consumer goods are also subject to a special excise tax of 10-20%.  After goods have cleared customs, taxes and duties must be paid in Korean Won within 15 days.

However, under the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (KSFTA), tariffs are either eliminated or reduced for 91.6% of exports from Singapore. The goal for this FTA is to secure market access, facilitate a more stable environment for service suppliers, and promote Singapore investments in Korea. 

To check if your export freight is eligible for the KSFTA tariff concessions, follow the step-by-step instructions provided by Enterprise Singapore:

  • Check the preferrential rate offered for your producty from the Tariff Schedule

  • Look up your product’s rules of origin

    • Wholly Obtained Rule applies if your product was entirely obtained or produced within Singapore.

    • Product Specific Rules apply if otherwise. 

You are advised to get more information on the above from the Enterprise Singapore website.

3. Prohibited & restricted imports 

When exporting to South Korea, it is crucial to ensure that you adhere to South Korea’s dangerous goods and customs regulations. 

Prohibited items include (but are not limited to): 

  • All weapons including replicas and lookalikes

  • Counterfeit currency and goods

  • Narcotics

  • Pornography

  • Any form of media that might harm public security 

These items do not comply with South Korea’s regulations and will not pass through customs. What’s more, attempting to export them to South Korea will result in heavy penalties for violations. 

Exporting made easy with DHL Express

In addition to familiarising yourself with South Korea’s export regulations, it is equally important to choose a reliable freight forwarder and shipping partner to support your business needs. 

With preferential rates and time-sensitive shipments to over 220 territories around the world, DHL Express offers a wide range of shipping solutions to streamline the delivery of your products from Singapore to South Korea. Export with ease with our array of economical yet flexible shipping options that ensure your goods reach their destination as fast as possible. 

OurDHL Express business account gives you access to MyDHL+ which offers options to get quotes, schedule pickups, and track shipments at your fingertips. Register for a business account today to get started.