Korea Customs Regulations

Category : Surviving in Korea / Travel/Events
Mar 24, 2015

Korean Customs


Korean customs sets the regulations on duty free goods and determines the taxes on items that exceed duty free allowances. For the most part, the regulations are standard and don’t differ far from those rules in other countries. When receiving parcels into country, the taxes can be slightly higher. The following article explains the procedure for bringing goods into the country on your person and when receiving objects visa mail. Read on so you won’t get stuck paying more than you have to!


Customs Inbound Procedure

When you first arrive in the country, you will be required to fill out a customs declaration form. They have them in English and you write down all the items you’re bringing into the country that may or may not be illegal. If you are exceeding the duty free allowance, you will need to declare the items. You will also need to declare illegal, dangerous or endangered items. (See below for exact restrictions.) These forms are pretty much identical to every other custom’s declaration form around the world, so unless it’s your first time abroad, it should be a no brainer.


Upon arrival you’ll be asked to turn in the form and then asked if you have anything to declare. You probably don’t, so say “no”, walk through the airport security exit and continue on with your travels. If you do have something to declare, say “yes”. You will be ushered into a declarations security clearance area. There your items will be inspected and you’ll have to fill out some paperwork. At this point if you’re exceeding your duty free limits or have items for resale, you’ll be required to pay taxes and then be on your way. If you’re carrying illegal substances, the penalties will be much greater.


Note: If you declare additional duty free items, you have fifteen days to pay the extra taxes via bank transfer and you can take your goods with you right away at the airport.


What happens if you don’t declare?

  1. You will be fined 30% additional tax for duty free items.
  2. If you are carrying something illegal, dangerous or endangered you will be subject to inspection. You can be jailed for up to ten years and you’ll probably have to pay a whopping fine (20 million KRW).


What happens if your items get confiscated?

You may have an item that requires further inspection, but that is not illegal or obviously illegal. In this case, your item will be confiscated and stored in a bonded area for one month. During that time you must fill out some paper work and pay the appropriate taxes. You will need an import clearance (the slip of custody) to retrieve your items along with proof of identification and your original boarding pass.


If someone is picking up the items on your behalf they need the slip of custody, a letter stating Power of Attorney over the good, the authorizer's (your) passport, a copy of proof of your identification, and a copy of the trustee's passport. If you fail to do the paper work within that month, your goods will be withheld, turned over as public property and then sold or disposed.


If you are carrying less than following amount in goods, cigarettes, liquor and perfume you do NOT have to declare your purchases. If you exceed the following amounts you MUST declare on the customs declaration form upon arrival.


Duty Free Items


Monetary Allowance



200 cigarettes


1L bottle x 1 bottle


60ml x 1 bottle

Agriculture/livestock/medical herbs/aquatic products

50 kg and not exceeding 100,000KRW

Sesame oil, sesame seeds, honey, braken, deodeok

5 kg

Pine nuts

1 kg

Ginseng (all varieties)

300 g


10 kg

Deer antlers

150 g

Medicinal herbs

3 kg


5 kg


The following items must be declared regardless of monetary value or quantity.

  1. Weapons and firearms of any kind including fake firearms
  2. Illegal narcotics
  3. Agriculture, livestock, food, fruits, vegetables, plants, live aquatics
  4. Item controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Animals, Flora and Fauna (CITES)
  5. Infringements of intellectual property rights
  6. Counterfeit money and forged securities
  7. Books, drawings, films, records, or videos, that infringes on the constitution, public peace or Korean customs
  8. More than 10,000USD in any currency (KRW or other)
  9. Items planned for sale
  10. Items that exceed the duty free allowance as started above



Customs Outbound

If you’re heading out of the country check the county of arrival’s customs declaration procedure and allowances to ensure that you will not be jailed or fined in that country. You are allowed to take out the same amount of goods that you can bring in. In addition you may purchase up to 3,000USD in duty free items. Bear in mind that the total amount of outgoing purchases may not equal the accepted amount of incoming allowances in the country of arrival (as is the case with Korea: 400USD incoming, 3,000USD outgoing). You also must declare jewelry and luxury watches, gold bars, furs, and golf clubs.


Note: Be careful while shopping within Korea. If you are found to have counterfeit goods in your possession you risk jail time and large fines, both if you get caught in Korea or in other countries.



Duty also applies to goods sent in the mail to Korea. If you’re buying a bunch of shoes, contact lenses, cheap electronics or whatever suits your online shopping fancy, check with customs regulations first. You don’t want to drop big won for something you’ll just have to pay taxes on when it arrives (especially if you can buy it here).



The customs process for parcels is straightforward. The package arrives and it’s x-rayed. If it’s within the duty free allowance it’s sent directly to the receiver’s address. If it violates the duty free allowance, it requires clearance. The package is then opened and inspected. From there it follows two possible paths:

  1. It goes to field duty. This means that taxes must be paid but the package is easy to classify and requires no further inspection. The receiver will be contacted. You must pay the appropriate taxes directly to the postman or via bank transfer and that’s it. If a customs official does call you, this is most likely what happened to your package.
  2. It is subject to customs declaration. The package then goes to either simplified clearance or general import declaration. Simplified clearance is for relatively straightforward cases. The tax cannot be paid to the postman and some paperwork may be required but nothing illegal or possibly illegal has been sent into the country. In the case of the general import declaration (also called formal declaration), more forms and inspection are required. This level of declaration is reserved for potentially illegal smuggling and large duty violations.


Note: If you neglect to pay the taxes for your good(s), it will become property of the state or sent back. You can also face jail time and large fines if you attempt to smuggle in counterfeit or illegal goods.


Parcel Duty Free Allowances

The duty free allowance for parcels is fairly limited. The following are allowed and duty does not need to be paid:

  1. A good for personal use that totals less than 150,000KRW. The value of the good must be clearly stated on the outside of the package.
  2. A good for commercial use that is less than 240USD.
  3. A good to be given for free at a trade show or exhibit. The individual item must be less than 5USD
  4. Items that have a 0% customs rate.


Notes on Taxes

  1. Two packages containing the same item sent from the same supplier on the same date will be subject to one tax rate only.
  2. Two packages containing the same item sent from different suppliers on the same date will be subject to separate tax rates.
  3. Two (or more) packages containing the same item from the same supplier on different dates will be examined case by case. One tax rate will be applied if it is for personal use and was not done to evade taxes, if that is not the case, multiple tax rates will be applied.


In general, the duty free rules follow the same as the duty free restrictions when carrying the items by person arriving into the country (see above for criteria).There are a few small changes as follows (please check the Korean Customs website for all tax rates and exact details):


Duty Free Items



200 cigarettes

Cigar leaves

50 cigarettes

Other cigarettes

250 g.


1L Bottle x 1 bottle


2 ounces x 1 bottle

Taxed Goods

Tax Rate

Entertainment devices and technology


Fur Products




Leather products


Home furnishings, carpets and mats


All clothing





Tags : Custom. Regulation. Security. Airport

Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.