Shipping to South Korea From the US
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Did you know that in 2021 the Republic of Korea had the 6th largest ecommerce market?
South Korea is a connected country and almost 99.5% of Korean households have access to the internet.
Korean cross-border ecommerce has seen increased traction in recent years. Foreign online retail sales have reached $3.5 billion in 2020. In the same year, the US ranked as the top contributor in the Korean cross-border ecommerce market.
For US ecommerce businesses seeking Asian customers, this East Asian country presents a fascinating opportunity.
If you’re looking for a logistics solution to reach your Korean customers, the best place to start is to become aware of international selling best practices.
This will help you avoid last-minute lags and unpleasant surprises that might cost you.
Below is a guide with the information on international shipping to South Korea from the US.
Cost & delivery speeds for shipping to South Korea from the US
When shipping internationally, some sellers may want their goods delivered fast, while others seek more cost-effective solutions and are flexible on the delivery timelines.
To devise a comprehensive shipping strategy, it is important to be aware of the shipping options available.
You can find below a list of services offered by the top four couriers. We calculated the costs below using each courier’s unique pricing calculators.
A consistent sample of 2 lbs in April 2022 has been used for the purpose of calculation. Exact prices may change.
Note: These are general options for consumers shipping orders. To know what ShipBob offers when shipping to other countries like South Africa, please request a quote here.
ShipBob’s exact rates for customers will vary as we charge an all-in ‘total fulfilment cost’ that includes picking, packing, and shipping, among other factors.
|1-3 business days
|Priority Mail International
|6-10 business days
|Priority Mail Express International
|3-5 business days
|3-5 business days
|2-5 business days
|5 business days
|1-3 business days
|3 business days
*Costs for DHL have been calculated using a package size of 17” X 13” X 1” (L X W X H)
How to choose a shipping courier
To make shipping to South Korea, you have different options from USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL.
Besides shipping rates and transit times, there are other courier services you will want to keep in mind, including reliable order tracking, pick-up options, and more.
Below is a list of the pros and cons of four leading international shipping companies. This will come to be of use when shipping from the US to South Korea.
Shipping to South Korea from the US with USPS
Founded in 1775, USPS prides itself on being a courier built for people. It promises universal services to everyone in the US at affordable prices.
It ships to 180 countries internationally, including South Korea.
Global Express Guaranteed (GXG) is its quickest option when shipping to this East Asian country. It however is also the most expensive option.
Priority Mail International is the more affordable option. However, if you use this option, prepare for a longer delivery timeline.
When to use USPS to ship from the US to South Korea
USPS is best when used for small, lightweight packages under 20 pounds, apparel, books, cosmetics, etc.
Shipping to South Korea from the US with UPS
UPS has capabilities to deliver to 220 countries and territories across the globe, including South Korea. You can ship up to 150 lbs of a package with UPS as opposed to a maximum of 70 lbs with USPS.
It is also one of the world’s largest customs brokers.
UPS Worldwide Saver is the fastest shipping option offered when sending items to South Korea. The service promises to deliver within 2-5 business days.
When to use UPS to ship from the US to South Korea
UPS is suited for those looking for timely deliveries, small business solutions, customs support, etc. Its services however come at a cost premium.
But UPS offers discounts to high volume shippers on a case-to-case basis and to international 3PL experts like ShipBob.
Shipping to South Korea from the US with FedEx
FedEx has been in operation and serving US customers since 1973. It has a strong air and ground network in logistics.
It offers specialized solutions for small businesses such as International Shipping Assist Tool.
FedEx International Priority and FedEx International Economy are two options available to ship to South Korea from the US. While the first one aims to deliver within 1-3 business days with the second one you can expect delivery within 5 business days.
When to use FedEx to ship from the US to South Korea
If your need is that of speedy delivery and you like your shipments tracked, FedEx would make for a credible choice.
However, be prepared to shell out extra as its services are priced significantly higher when compared with other couriers.
Shipping to SouthKorea from the US with DHL
DHL is a reliable global player in logistics. It ships to over 220 countries including South Korea. This German courier has a strong international network and is trustworthy.
When sending goods from the US to the Republic of Korea, the shipping option offered by DHL aims to deliver within 3 business days. Pricing is competitive for the services offered.
DHL’s physical footprint is relatively small in comparison with other couriers. However, it offers a free door-to-door service that aims to make shipping convenient.
When to use DHL to ship from the US to South Korea
If you are looking for a dependable player that promises timely deliveries and offers free pick-up services, DHL may be suitable for you.
Its green initiatives such as GoGreen Climate Neutral could also be of value to individuals and businesses looking for environmentally friendly solutions.
Duties & taxes when shipping to South Korea from the US
As of 1 January, 2020, almost 98.8% of US products enter South Korea duty-free.
While many items are allowed to be freely imported from the US, some exceptions, such as rice in commodities, apply.
Some other categories like pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and cosmetics may require special registrations and import approvals, testing, or certification by relevant organisations before clearing customs.
The US Department of Commerce’s FTA Tariff Tool is meant for exporters who wish to identify the harmonized system number for their products and the associated tariff rates.
Express courier service goods sourced into the Republic of Korea from the US under the value of $200 are duty-free.
Items ‘made in USA’ and under $1,000 are exempt from KORUS FTA (United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement) documentation.
In addition to the duties, South Korea levies a flat 10% Value Added Tax (VAT) on all imports.
A special excise tax of 10-20% is also charged on certain luxury items and durable consumer goods.
You must clear the tariffs and taxes on imported goods within 15 days of customs clearance. It is to be paid in Korean Won.
South Korea customs information
Duties on imports are assessed on a Cost-Insurance-Freight (CIF) basis. Transaction value method is the main mode of customs evaluation.
However, if there are doubts about Korean Customs valuation methods other means under WTO appraisement hierarchy may be used on the stated value.
For a business to successfully export goods to South Korea, several documents such as commercial invoice, import declaration, bill of lading, certificate of origin, etc. are required to clear Korean customs.
To know more about the country’s customs department, you can check the official website.
Prohibited items when shipping to South Korea
To protect its citizens and state, each country has a list of items it prohibits or restricts from import. The Republic of Korea also has such items that are banned from import.
It is best to review this list before shipping to avoid hold-ups.
Given below is a list of some of the items prohibited from import in Korea.
Items you can’t ship to South Korea from the US
Since the list of restricted and prohibited items is subject to revision and changes, it is advised to review the official website before shipping.
What ecommerce businesses need to know about shipping to South Korea
Korean ecommerce is spearheading its retail market growth. It increased by 14%, contributing to the worldwide growth rate of 29% in 2021.
Domestic ecommerce sales have steadily increased over the past few years and it has become the biggest retail channel in Korea. Cross-border ecommerce has also been rising.
Market expansion is likely to continue over the next few years as new markets emerge and existing markets present opportunities for further development.
If you are a US ecommerce business looking to expand in the Asian continent, read on to get some insights to capture a slice of the growing Korean ecommerce market.
1. Adapt to the Korean market and people
Koreans are demanding yet eager and loyal consumers. It is therefore important to communicate with your business partners and your customers in Korea regularly.
Adapting your company products and procedures according to the tastes of the Korean people is pivotal to success in this country.
Long-term relationships, both with associates and customers, win in this market. For the same, having a local presence is critical. You could also install a branch sales office.
Physical meetups are important. Visit Korea frequently, and bring your Korean counterparts to the home office periodically. This is important to make them feel involved and to keep them informed on your offerings.
If possible, let the distributor/agent pick from the US product line, products they find marketable in South Korea. Share technical data and company literature to keep them abreast with the latest.
Participating in local exhibitions, seminars, and holding demonstrations also aid in success.
2. Make the most of the KORUS FTA and the strong American repute
The Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) has made South Korea even more of an attractive market for US businesses.
With more than 95%of tariffs having been reduced or obsolete, U.S. products are becoming increasingly cost-competitive.
In addition to the relaxed tariffs owing to the FTA, American products in the Korean market enjoy a healthy reputation of being of superior quality and of delivering good performance.
As an ecommerce business, be sure to use these to your advantage to further your foothold in the market.
3. Be mobile
Mobile ecommerce is the primary growth driver of Korean ecommerce. Purchases on mobile platforms form a staggering 70.5% of the total ecommerce market value.
As per the Speedtest Global Index, April 2020, South Korea is the global leader in mobile connection speed.
For a US ecommerce business, building a significant mobile presence when selling to South Korean customers is therefore essential.
4. Gateway to Asian expansion
With exports valued at 40% of the GDP, the Republic of Korea is one of the world’s most export dependent industrialized nations.
As part of being an export dependent market, Korea also has a strong shipping and air cargo infrastructure.
Seeking future growth, Korea’s leaders have already started building technology intensive industries. US companies are finding opportunities in these growing industries and are also partnering with Korean firms to expand to third-country markets.
Therefore, South Korea is not just a market for US goods but also an entryway or a hub for expanding into other markets such as ASEAN, the Middle East, and other Indo-Pacific markets.
If you are looking to expand your footprint across the Asian market, South Korea could make for a suitable starting point.
Outsource shipping and logistics to a 3PL like ShipBob
To offer customers across the world a remarkable brand experience, consider partnering with an international 3PL like ShipBob.
Selling internationally can be challenging, time-consuming, and costly. But with ShipBob, you’re given everything you need to serve customers across the globe while saving time on logistics.
We not only take care of picking, packing, and shipping your orders to South Korea, we also offer upfront fulfilment costs that include customs, duties, and additional taxes.
The best part about partnering with ShipBob is you get time back to focus on more strategic initiatives, such as customer service and marketing.
“We realised that this time, we had to find a global fulfilment provider with expertise in US fulfilment — which led us back to ShipBob.
ShipBob’s software was much easier to use than our previous local provider’s, and gave us a better picture of what was going on with our orders. Even from overseas, it gave us the visibility and control we would expect from a provider in our backyard.”
John Greenhalgh, Co-Founder of A Year of Dates
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Shipping to South Korea FAQs
Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about shipping to South Korea from the US.
What’s the cheapest way to ship to South Korea from the US?
USPS’s First Class Package International is one of the cheapest ways to send packages from the US to South Korea.
The maximum weight limit for packages sent using this service is capped at 4 lbs. Also, the value of the contents cannot exceed $400.
For items requiring an export license under US law, this service cannot be used.
What’s the cheapest way to ship large packages to South Korea from the US?
The flat rate shipping options from USPS are an affordable and cheap way to send packages to South Korea from the US.
Shipments sent using this service cannot weigh over 20 pounds and are expected to reach within 6-10 business days.
What’s the fastest way to ship a package to South Korea from the US?
USPS Global Express Guaranteed (GXG), USPS GXG Envelopes, UPS Worldwide Saver, and FedEx International Priority all aim to deliver shipments to South Korea from the US within 1 to 3 business days.
Do I have to pay customs duties and fees when shipping to South Korea from the US?
Express courier service mailed goods sourced into the Republic of Korea from the US under the value of $200 are duty-free. Since the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) came into effect more than 95%of tariffs have been reduced or obsolete.
Additionally, South Korea also charges a flat 10% Value Added Tax (VAT) on all imports.
A special excise tax of 10-20% is also charged on certain luxury items and durable consumer goods.
What’s the easiest way to ship something to South Korea from the US?
UPS with a vast network of drop-off points, enhanced customs support, speedy delivery, etc. makes for a convenient choice for those who seek peace of mind when shipping to South Korea from the US.