By law, alcoholic beverages imported into Korea must present a label, in Korean, with the following information:
- Name of the product
- Country of Origin
- Type of product
- Importer name and address
- Importer’s business license number
- Date of bottling
- Alcohol percentage and product volume (please note that Korean labeling regulations have a low tolerance level of +/- 0.5 with regards to proper and accurate labeling of alcohol content)
- Name of ingredients by volume percentage
- Location where product may be exchanged or returned (in the instance of a defective product)
- Instructions for storage (if applicable)
- List of food additives (i.e. Sorbic acid)
- Government Health Warning
- Government Warning against sale to minors
- Mode of distribution (the label should specify one of the three: “Discount Store Sale only,” “Restaurant Sale only,” or “Sale for Home Use only.” This regulation applies as taxes on alcoholic beverages vary depending on the method of supply to the consumer.)
- Bill of Lading, or Airway Bill
- Packing List
- Certificate of Origin Statement (needed to qualify for preferential tariff rates)
- List with names of all ingredients, including percentage of major ingredients
- Processing Method
- Certificate of Production Date
Importers must obtain an import certificate prior to the importation of any alcoholic beverages. In order to complete this process, the import should follow the steps below:
- The importer should file an “Entry for Foods etc.” form with the Head of the Regional Food and Drug Administration (this may be done no less than 5 days prior to the arrival of shipment) along with any other pertinent documents (see Required Documents section).
- There are a variety of different inspections which may be conducted by the KFDA (Korean Food and Drug Administration) – these include a Document Inspection, a Visual Inspection, a Laboratory Inspection, an Incubation Test, and a Random Inspection. The Laboratory Inspection includes sampling of the product and a chemical inspection in KFDA’s laboratories.
- Importers who are importing an alcoholic beverage for the first time (i.e. the product has not been imported into Korea before) must submit two sample bottles of each product to the KFDA inspection office, which will complete a chemical safety inspection. Once this process is complete, the product may enter the country with only a visual inspection or inspection of pertinent documents. However, products contained in subsequent shipments must be identical to the original samples submitted in their label, product name, alcohol percentage, vintage (if wine), ingredients, and net volume. Random chemical inspections may also apply.
- KFDA also inspects the product with regards to a “Conformity Assessment” process which evaluates the compliance of the imported product with the Korean Food Code, the Food Additive Code, and Korean labeling regulations (set out in the Korean “Labeling Guide”).
- If the product complies with the above process, the importer is issued a certificate for import, which may be used to clear future shipments of the inspected product. If the product does not comply, the importer will be notified and may choose to destroy the product or return it to the country of origin. In some cases, i.e. with labeling violations, the importer may be able to reapply for inspection once the violations have been corrected.
- Effective March 15, 2012, a Certificate of Origin Statement is needed to claim preferential duties for imported products of U.S. origin. Per the Korea-US FTA, to qualify for reduced preferential duties a certificate of origin statement must be presented to the Korean Custom Service. Please note that there is no “required” format but it must capture all the data elements. Please note the required information per this template provided by the Korean Custom Service.
The Korean Customs Service utilizes an electronically-based import clearance system, which allows the importer to complete declarations electronically up to five days prior to the arrival of a shipment by carrier or one day prior to a shipment arriving by air (this process is referred to as a “prior-entry import declaration”). The importer should file the import declaration in the Customs office located in the region where the shipment will arrive. The declaration form (stating the description of the goods, quantity, value, and other pertinent information) should include the documents mentioned in the Required Documents section of this file. Once the shipment has arrived, it should be stored at a bonded storage location meanwhile Customs verifies that the importer has completed all certifications (i.e. import certificate obtained from KFDA, see Licensing section above). Customs will then “accept” the declaration if all requirements have been met and grant the importer a certificate proving that the declaration has been accepted. Any applicable customs duties should be paid at this time, along with taxes or other tariffs required. The shipment may then be released from a bonded storage location and enter free circulation.
Please note that all imported foods and alcoholic beverages are subject to random inspections by the Korea Food & Drug Administration (KFDA) once they have entered Korean Customs.
Registration Requirement Under Korea’s Special Act on Imported Food Safety Management
Read the April 5, 2016 TTB Announcement, Registration Requirement Under Korea’s Special Act on Imported Food Safety Management, for more information about how to register with the Republic of Korea Ministry of Food & Drug Safety.
There are a number of taxes and tariffs that apply to liquor products sold in Korea. However, alcohol beverage tariffs apply only to imported beer and distilled spirits products. The import tariffs on wine was eliminated as of March 15, 2012 as part of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Although beer and distilled spirits are still subject to a conventional tariff, these tariffs rates are scheduled to reduce yearly and phase out completely. The beer tariff is scheduled to end in 2018 and tariffs on distilled spirits ends in 2016.
For the most current tariffs and taxes applied to imported products for this country, please visit the Online Tariff Database provided by Tariffic. Please ensure you have a 10-digit HS classification code in order to obtain tariff information. Also see the Census Bureau’s Schedule B search function ( https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/schedules/b/index.html), which allows you to classify your product according to United States export codes. Simply click "Search" and enter the keyword (i.e. beer) that best describes your product.
U.S. Agricultural Trade Office
Korean Customs Service
Korean Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Office of Agricultural Affairs
Korean Embassy, Washington
The information in this guide was obtained from external sources, including the web sites of various governmental agencies and organizations, direct contact with those agencies and organizations, and from Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Attaché reports. Consequently, the accuracy of this information depends upon the accuracy of the sources.
TTB is not responsible for the content of external web sites.
Page last reviewed/updated: 04/13/2012.