Outline of the system
By embracing the principle of free trade, Korea has continued to reduce its trade-related regulations. In this context, restrictions on trade, if any, are limited to the very minimum necessary.
As a general rule, no licensing (since 1 July 1993), registration (since 1 March 1997) or notification (since 1 January 2000) is required for importers and exporters.
The Foreign Trade Act is the basic law that governs international trade between Korea and other countries. Specific items for which exports and/or imports are restricted are listed under the Export-Import Notice published by the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy (MOTIE). However, at present, no item is subject to import restrictions under the Export-Import Notice except aircraft parts.
In addition to the Foreign Trade Act, 60 separate laws also stipulate approval or authorization requirements for certain items, and such items can be imported by obtaining certifications and approval. These requirements are in place mostly for the protection of morals, human health, hygiene and sanitation, animal and plant life, aquatic animal and aquatic plant health, environmental conservation or essential security interests in compliance with domestic legislation obligations or international commitments.
To enhance transparency and for the convenience of trading companies, MOTIE has updated the Consolidated Public Notice containing all export and import certification requirements covered by the 60 separate laws.
As of September 2011, there are no quantitative import restrictions. In addition, rice has not been subject to quantitative import restrictions since 2015 due to "tariffication". Import-related requirements provided by the 60 separate laws pertain to petroleum, agricultural fertilizers, crop seeds, animals and animal products, nuclear materials, narcotics, foods and food additives, firearms and explosives, etc.
Nature of licensing
If Automatic, administrative purpose
If Non-Automatic, description of the notified Non-Automatic Licensing regime
Products under restriction as to the quantity or value of imports
No import-related regulations are intended to restrict the quantity or value of imports. Rather, they are maintained in order to protect national security, human, animal or plant life or health, and the environment, etc. in accordance with the provisions of Articles XX and XXI of GATT 1994, other WTO Agreements and other international rules or agreements.
Questions for products under restriction as to the quantity or value of imports
The system applies to products originating from which country?
The system applies to goods originating in and coming from all countries.
Expected duration of licensing procedure
Is the licensing statutorily required?
The import approval system is enforced under the Foreign Trade Act, the Enforcement Decree of the Foreign Trade Act, the Foreign Trade Management Regulation and the Export-Import Notice.
The import-related requirements are set forth in the 60 domestic laws in the Consolidated Public Notice.
Does the legislation leave designation of products to be subject to licensing to administrative discretion?
Is it possible for the government to abolish the system without legislative approval?
The detailed conditions for approval are prescribed in enforcement decrees or regulations for the above-mentioned 60 domestic laws.
Eligibility of applicants
Is there a system of registration of persons or firms permitted to engage in importation?
No licensing (since 1 July 1993), registration (since 30 December 1996) or notification (since 1 January 2000) is required to become and importer or exporter.
What persons or firms are eligible to apply for a licence?
For statistical purposes only, the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), a private organization, assigns upon request a trade business number to anyone who wishes to carry out trade business.
Is there a registration fee?
Is there a published list of authorized importers?
Contact point for information on eligibility
Submission of an application
Administrative body(ies) for submission of an application
Korea Pharmaceutical Traders Association; Ministry of Food and Drug Safety
What information is required in applications?
An offer sheet or a copy of the contract and other necessary documents must be submitted together with the application. Please see attached Sample FormN3KOR14 - sample forms.pdf
What documents is the importer required to supply with the application?
An offer sheet or a copy of the contract and other necessary documents must be submitted together with the application. Please see attached Sample Form
Window of submission of an application
How far in advance of importation must application for a licence be made?
Are there any limitations as to the period of the year during which application for licence can be made? If so, explain
Issuing the license
Can a licence be granted immediately on request?
Can licences be obtained within a shorter time-limit or for goods arriving at the port without a licence
Which administrative body is responsible for approving application of licences?
Korea Pharmaceutical Traders Association; Ministry of Food and Drug Safety
Must the applications be passed on to other organs for visa, note or approval?
Are there any other conditions attached to the issue of a licence?
There are no other conditions associated with the issuing of a licence.
Fees and other administrative charges
Is there any licensing fee or administrative charge?
There is no licensing fee or administrative charge.
What is the amount of the fee or charge?
Is there any deposit or advance payment required associated with the issue of licences?
There is no deposit or advance payment requirement associated with the issue of licences.
Amount or rate?
Is it refundable?
What is the period of retention?
What is the purpose of this requirement?
Refusal of an application
Under what circumstances may an application for a licence be refused other than failure to meet the ordinary criteria?
An application for approval cannot be rejected if it satisfies the established criteria.
Are the reasons for any refusal given to applicants?
Have applicants a right of appeal in the event of refusal to issue a licence?
If so, to what bodies and under what procedures?
Are there any limitations as to the period of year during which importation may be made?
What documents are required upon actual importation?
In the case of import-restricted items, the import declaration, import approval, commercial invoice, Bill of Lading and other necessary documents must be submitted.
Are there any other administrative procedures, apart from import licensing and similar administrative procedures, required prior to importation?
There are no other administrative procedures, apart from import licensing and similar administrative procedures, required prior to importation.
Conditions of licensing
What is the period of validity of a licence? Can the validity be extended? How?
In principle, the period of validity for import approval is one year. However, the period can be extended or shortened, depending on specific circumstances, when the approval is issued by the relevant administrative agency.
Is there any penalty for the non-utilization of a licence or a portion of a licence?
There is no penalty for the non-utilisation of a licence or a portion of a licence.
Are licences transferable between importers? If so, are any limitations or conditions attached to such transfer?
Licences are not transferable between importers.
Is foreign exchange automatically provided by the banking authorities for goods to be imported?
Foreign exchange is provided automatically for goods to be imported under the standard settlement method.