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flag South Korea South Korea: Selling and Buying

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Main International Economic Cooperation
Korea signed in 2010 'The Korea- US Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Korea is a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting). It is a signatory to multilateral and bilateral agreements with many countries. Korea signed in October, 2009 a Free Trade Agreement with the EU. The country have signed a trade agreement with 21 other countries in the São Paulo Round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP).
Non Tariff Barriers
Approval or authorization of certain items that can be imported by obtaining certification, permission and type approval. Those requirements are maintained mostly for the protection of public morals, human health, hygiene and sanitation, animal and plant life, environmental conservation or essential security interests in compliance with domestic legislation requirements or international commitments.

Quantitative import restrictions on Rice, Petroleum, LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas), agricultural fertilizers, crop seeds, animals and animal products, nuclear materials, narcotics, foods and food additives, foreign publications, firearms and explosives.
More information on Korean customs service.

Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Korea applies a Customs tariff which is among the lowest in the world. It is 8% on average.

The WTO gives a sheet summarizing the Customs tariffs of the country.

Customs Classification
Korea uses the harmonized system by the World Customs Organization, is used as a basis for Customs tariffs and for the collection of international trade statistics. Over 98% of the merchandise in international trade is classified in terms of the HS.
Import Procedures
The Korea Custom Service (KCS) has been operating a web-based clearance system 'UNI-PASS' since October 2005.
Import procedure is listed on the website of KCS.
Importing Samples
Korea allows temporary importation of commercial samples, professional equipment and certain advertising materials by a nonresident individual.
Korea accepts ATA carnet.
For Further Information
Korean Customs Office
Asia Trade Hub
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Learn more about Traders, Agents in South Korea on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing Opportunities

Consumer Behavior
Korean consumers are very sensitive to the power of the brand name, the healthy aspect of a product and perfect after sales services. They are ready to pay for the quality. Korean consumers like to be guided and well informed when they buy something. They are less and less nationalist in their purchasing preference.
Consumer Profile and Purchasing Power
A large part of Korean's households are rich or very rich. They value the brands because in Korean you are what you wear or what you show to other people. As a result, Korean consumers are quite conformist and so it is important to follow the trend and local trend-makers (pop stars, actors, talentsÂ…).
Consumers Associations
Consumers Korea
Korean National Council of Consumer Organisations
KCA , Korea Consumer Agency
Main Advertising Agencies
Cheil Communications
Daehong Communications (en anglais)

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
The retail market in Korea reached 150 trillion KRW (+5,7%) in 2007. The number of the large discount stores convenience store will reach more than 400 in 2008 and that of the convenience stores exceeded already 10,000.
Market Shares
Traditional retail distribution networks of small family-run stores, stalls in markets, and street vendors are being replaced by large discount stores. Nevertheless since 2012 Korean government tries to protect SME sector.
Among total retail market worth of 150 trillion KRW (+5,7%) in 2007, sales for all large discount stores comes first with around 28 trillion KRW, followed by department stores with 18,5, Online shopping mall 15,5, supermarkets 7,8, convenient stores 5,7 and TV home shopping with 4,2 trillion KRW.

Two retail giants, Lotte and Shinsegae group secured respectively 10,0851 trillion won and in annual sales, 17,7 billion KRW and 10,1028 trillion won in 2007 with department store, large discount stores, premium outlet stores, online or TV home shopping.

Organizations in the Retail Sector
Korea Association of Convenience Stores (KACS)
Korea Chainstores Association (KOCA)

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
In Korea, the roads have been the most important infrastructure carrying over 90% of the country's transport volume.

Korea has 57 railroad routes and they still act as the main mode of transport for large cargo. And there are 8 international airports including Incheon International airports and 7 domestic airports.

Total cargo handling in ports throughout Korea is around 17 million TEUs. In terms of a case-by-base of cargo handling figures, import and export cargo reaches 11 million TEUs . Transit cargo is to 6 million TEUs. Around 77 international passenger and cargo airlines operate frequent flights between Korea and many nations around the world.
Korea has three main port authorities, Busan Port Authority (BPA), Incheon Port Authority (IPA) and Ulsan Port Authority (UPA).

Busan Port Authority (BPA)
Incheon Port Authority (IPA)
Ulsan Port Authority (UPA)
Korea Airports
Sea Transport Organizations
Ministry of Transport (MOLIT)
Air Transport Organizations
Ministry of Transport (MOLIT)
Road Transport Organizations
Ministry of Transport (MOLIT)
Rail Transport Organizations
Ministry of Transport (MOLIT)

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
The manufacturing sector contributes nearly 40% to the GDP while as the services sector contributes around 57,2%. Korea's main industrial activity sectors are textile, steel industry, automobile manufacturing, shipbuilding and electronics (semiconductors, mobile phone, TV, etc).

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories - South Korea - Directory of companies in South Korea.
KorCham Biz - Korea's business directory.
Korean Buyer DB of KOIMA - Korean premium buyers by product index.
Manufacturers Associations of the Main Industries
55 professional associations listed for South Korea.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Korea International Trade Association (KITA)
Enterprises Federation
The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI)
Small and Medium Business Administration (SMBA)

Learn more about Service Providers in South Korea on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Last Updates: October 2014