korean business industry

The Food and Beverage Business and Industry in Korea at a Glance: An Overview and Assessment

  • InCorp Editorial Team
  • 14 November 2017
  • 5 minute reading time

At first, Korea is the world’s 14th largest economy as of 2015 with a national GDP of $1.853 trillion, up by 2.6 percent from the previous year, and a per capita GDP of $36,600 on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis.

Despite the heavy impact of the global economic crisis since 2009, the Korean economy has maintained a relatively stable growth due to the solid performance of its export sector. However, the Korean economy currently faces another tide of challenges as the recovery of its major export markets has slowed under the extended global economic downturn and increased competition.

All major Korean shipbuilders are in serious financial trouble and are pressured to lay off large numbers of workers. Moreover, Korea’s top ocean shipper was put under court receivership in September 2016 for heavy debts and is in the process of liquidation. Heavy household debts, which saw a steep 113 percent increase between 2008 and 2016 to a record high level, also put pressure on the Korean economy.

On top of this, the leadership of the Korean government, which has lost much of its momentum after a recent corruption/influence-peddling scandal involving the president, is likely to remain weak until the new presidential election scheduled in late 2017. The bank of Korea has recently lowered its forecast for the Korean GDP growth for 2017 down to 2.8 percent.

Food consumption trends in Korea reflect ongoing socio-economic shifts among the general Korean public. This includes the rise of an affluent consumer group, retirement of baby boomers, more women in the workforce, downsizing of the family, a well-traveled/educated young generation, urbanization, and adoption of information technologies. As a result, products and businesses that offer good value, high quality, health/nutritional benefits, new and diversified taste, and convenience are showing strong growth in the market.

Import Food Standards and Regulations

Korea has well-established standards and regulations on food and agricultural products. Due to that, businesses must meet all local regulations to import products and sold their product in Korea. In detail regarding standards and regulations that imported food and agricultural products are subject to in Korea, including Labeling, Packaging, Export Health Certificates, MRL (Maximum Residue Level) Code, and Food Additive Code, you can check out the US Agricultural Trade Office website.

Import Procedures

Customs Clearance

Generally speaking, imported products are subject to mandatory documentation and inspection requirements administered by relevant agencies upon arrival in Korea.

The Korea Customs Service (KCS), the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS), the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA), and the Quarantine Inspection Agency (QIA under MAFRA) are the lead Korean authorities involved in the import clearance process. In short, failure to satisfy the Korean regulations administered by these agencies will result in delays or rejections. Not to mention, this delays can be costly due to the perishable nature of agricultural products. In addition, other entities may be involved in regulating imports through the administration of licenses or, in some cases, quotas established on agricultural products. Due to the complex nature of the import clearance process, importers (or exporters) in general hire licensed customs attorneys/brokers to handle the needed work.

KCS is responsible for ensuring that the imported shipment has satisfied every requirement. This includes documentation, inspections and import tariffs, before releasing the product from the bonded area. Therefore, the respective quarantine inspection authorities (MFDS and QIA) must clear the shipment before KCS will clear it. All new-to-market products are subject to mandatory laboratory inspection. Subsequent shipments of the same product that have passed the first laboratory inspection will be eligible for much simpler/shorter documentary/visual inspection. But it could still be subject to laboratory testing on a random basis. 

The duration for MDFS Inspection

  • Document Inspection: about 2 days
  • Visual Inspection: about 3 days
  • Laboratory Inspection: about 10 days
  • Random Inspection: about 5 days
  • Incubation Test: about 14 days


Documents/Information Generally Required by the Korean Authority for Imported Food

  1. Commercial Invoice
  2. Bill of Lading (or Airway Bill)
  3. Packing List
  4. Certificate of Origin
  5. Names of all ingredients and composition percentage of major ingredients
  6. Names and contents of all food additives
  7. Processing Flow Chart
  8. Export health/sanitary certificate (for meat, fruit, nuts, vegetables, plants, grains, etc.)


Korean Language Labeling Requirements

All imported food products are required to carry legible Korean language labels to enter the market. Stickers may be used but should not be easily removable nor should they cover the original label. Labels must contain the following information listed below (for further details and exceptions, please refer to the FAIRS Country Report).

  1. Product name
  2. Product type
  3. Importer’s name and address
  4. Manufacturer date
  5. Shelf life or best before date
  6. Contents (calories)
  7. Ingredient name(s) and content
  8. Composite ingredients
  9. Additives
  10. Allergens
  11. Nutrients
  12. Other items designated by the detailed labeling standards for food, such as public health warnings

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What SEAH Bio Solution Can Offer

Therefore, SEAH Bio Solution (SBS) present as a healthcare activation leader in providing strategic solution for the food, beverage, and health supplement business with extensive market knowledge. SBS has been supporting and advising the regulatory evaluation, agency interactions, marketing services, sales and marketing, and the strategic consulting. Also, supported by our headquarter office in Korea, SBS works for the clients worldwide for the strategic development to meet their needs. Besides, SBS assists clients in successfully meeting regulatory obligations and bring their products to the Korean market in a time-efficient and cost-effective manner.

Pandu Biasramadhan

Senior Consulting Manager at InCorp Indonesia

An expert for more than 10 years, Pandu Biasramadhan, has an extensive background in providing top-quality and comprehensive business solutions for enterprises in Indonesia and managing regional partnership channels across Southeast Asia.

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