What is the best way to ship goods from China to South Korea ?


First of all, welcome on this page. If you’re in need of experienced information about the trade process between China and South Korea, it is THE page you wanted to find. Without regarding if you’re willing to import goods into the Korean territory, or if you’re in China and need to send products to a customer in Korea.

No matter also if the goods you need to transfer are fulfilling an entire container, or a regular cardboard. Our decade of experience on the Asian freight market enabled us to build this page, referring us to our practise with Korean customers.

It took us several hours of research and analyse to synthetize all we know on the topic, for your own benefit. Here we will detail you all the procedures, give you personal advises and provide you useful links to begin or upgrade your trading process.

SINO Shipping is the partner you need to move your goods from China to Korea, by Air or Sea Freight. We’re able to book space on vessels or planes for every types of goods, even if they are dangerous or perishable.

In a first part we will detail you the customs clearing process, in a second the trade relations between the two countries and finally we will discuss the two existing freight methods.




How to be exempted of duties and taxes for an import from China to South Korea?


It will depend mostly of the type of products you’re importing. China and South Korea signed a Free Trade Agreement that entered into force in 2015. The great majority of Chinese goods imported into South Korea are agricultural products, while in the other way it’s automobiles. The FTA is mostly applicable on this type of goods. So, if you’re trying to import agricultural products, you will certainly benefit of a tax exemption. If you’re importing other types of goods, the chances to be exempted are tiny.


Necessary documents


The Bill of Lading or Airway bill (BL)

With the Certificate of Origin, the Bill of Lading is the second most important document required by customs to screen your goods. As the CO is testifying on the origin of your items, the BL is certifying of the bank transfer from the importer to the carrier. The Letter of Credit (LC) will also be issued next to the BL.

Here we’re detailing you how is built a BL:

1 = Shipper
2 = Consignee
3 = Notify party
4 = Vessel No.
5 = Port of loading / discharge
6 = Place of receipt / delivery
7 = Containers No.
8 = Goods description
9 = Net weight
10 = Dimensions / volume

A packing list

The packing list is describing all the items you’re transferring. It gives details about their type, their dimensions, their weight, their composition… This document is important for the customs clearance and also for the Bill of Lading issuance.

A valid Declaration Form

An official Import Declaration Form that you must complete and return via connected networks to the customs office, where your goods are detained is mandatory.

A Certificate of Origin (CO)

The Certificate of Origin is used by customs as a proof of your items origin. It ensures that your products were made in China. To be valid, it must be issued by a government or a notary public. As you can guess, this document is fundamental to apply for a tax exemption.

Other documents

  • The Licenses, Certificates… (if any)
  • A commercial invoice
  • The Insurance certificate (if any)

Detailed statement on duties exemption

The processus is differing, depending if you’re applying before or after the import declaration acceptance.

before the import declaration acceptance

The application form must be submitted to the Customs desks detaining your goods, before the acceptance of the import declaration. The import declaration must detail the classification code that is applying for the preferential tariff rate to the imported goods. In that situation, the CO must accompany this import declaration.


After the import declaration acceptance

If you’re in a situation where you cannot provide the necessary documents for a preferential tariff treatment before the acceptance of the import declaration, you must provide these documents within one year to the customs desk, to be tariff exempted. To the application for privileged tariffs, you must join an application for revision, the original CO and a duplicate of the certificate of import declaration.

Duties and taxes in Japan


Like most of the countries in the world, South Korea works with the Harmonized Tariff System (HTS), to classify products subjects to trades.


The HS code is the identification number attributed to goods through the HTS. Here is all the information contained in a HS code :

harmonized stystem codes

Let’s continue with the “pineapple” as an example, it will provide you these rates :



Trade relations between China and South Korea


The China–South Korea Free Trade Agreement, motor of the cooperation between the two countries


Trade exchanges between China and South Korea have only become important in recent history since 1992, where both countries formalized their relations. Before that date, South Korea was a great ally of the Republic of China (Taiwan) which didn’t help to get closer to the PRC. Since then, their political relationship is globally getting better and their trade flows are rocketing. In 2016, South Korea was the 4th trading partner of China with 4,5% of the Chinese goods exported there.

A Free Trade Agreement was set in 2015 between the two countries after 4 years of negotiations. China is exporting agricultural products in majority to South Korea. South Korea is exporting automobiles and manufactured products in majority to China. So, the FTA eliminated tariff barriers over 90 % of the goods traded between the two countries. This will result in a 300 billion USD boost over the next 10 years according to economists. It will also enhance South Korea’s GDP by 1% and create around 60,000 jobs there during that same period. China will also benefit of a 0.3 % GDP increase during that time frame.

As the Tech & Automobile sector in South Korea, and the Agricultural domain in China are deprived of foreign investments, they will not be exchanges of investments and technologies between the two countries. This FTA has only an impact on the goods that are swapped and is also facilitating the life of the respective expatriates’ communities in the other’s land.


To sum up, both countries have increased greatly their trade and diplomatic relations since 25 years ago. The volume and value of trade between the two countries have reached tremendous numbers in the last years. Because of their proximity, and the good shape of their freight infrastructures it’s easy and usually fast to transfer goods between the two countries. Several agreements had also ease the trade between them.

Our decade of expertise on the two countries, and more largely on the Asian continent, permit us to deliver tailor made freight solutions at very competitive rates. Do not hesitate to contact our dedicated staff for more information about your transfer, we’re always happy to serve and spread knowledge !

Custom Procedure


Here are the different steps that you must go through to receive your goods:

  • On arrival, your goods are firstly stored in a custody.
  • When you receive the arrival confirmation, you must fill the tariff rate recommendation and the customs duty exemption recommendation. These documents must be electronically provided to customs after.
  • After these two documents, you have now to prepare the import declaration and send it electronically to the customs also.
  • The customs are separating goods that are subjects to an inspection, from the others that are only requiring administrative processes. In the case of an inspection, goods are examined physically and through documents. If no inspection is required, a document examination will be only performed.
  • The approval of the goods is thereof transmitted.
  • If there is any inherent customs duty to pay, you have two possibilities. You pay them in advance or you provide a bank document testifying of the security for duty payment. When received, the customs will inform you of the acceptance of the import declaration.
  • Finally your goods are released, and you can receive them.


Here is a flow chart of the Korean customs process:

Customs contact in China

China customs emblem

Customs contact in Korea




Prohibited & restricted items

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Counterfeit Notes





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South Korea is a country located in the southern part of the Korean peninsula. It is bordered by its only neighbour on the north, North Korea. All the rest of the country is surrounded by water, with the Yellow Sea in the east, The East China Sea in the south, and the Sea of Japan in the west. As indirect neighbours China, Japan and Russia are quickly reached by sea from Korea. This situation explains why there is only two freight methods to reach the country, sea and air freight. It influenced Korea to build one of the greatest fleets in the world as well as state of the art port infrastructures.

Because of its isolation, its ground poor in natural resources and arable lands, and its choice to become a major industrial country, the Korean economy is greatly dependent on its importations. Korea has and is still incredibly developing its port cities and water routes. The country is now one of the biggest world maritime power. In the early 2010s, South Korea was the 12th country in terms of ship registration (3000 vessels) and the 7th for the economic control of the fleet. Korea is also on the world podium of the shipbuilding by countries.

Major Ports of the East Coast



It’s the port that serves the capital city, Seoul. It’s the third port of the country in terms of containerization. It is also used to welcome a part of the imports of gas, possess an oil refinery and also a liquefied natural gas terminal (LNG). It’s container traffic in 2016 was of 2.7 million of TEUs, and its total cargo traffic was of 161 million Revenue Ton (RT).



Pyeongtaek is also possessing a LNG terminal. Its container traffic was of 518,700 TEUs in 2013.



Mokpo port is famous for its shipyard. Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries is building vessel there for its international clients.

Major Ports of the South Coast



It is the second busiest port of South Korea. It’s a polyvalent port, with a great container volume, and also an industrial function. It allows the entrance of the needed gas, coil and steel for the Korean industry. It’s neighbour, port of Yeosu, possess a huge oil refinery. Gwangyang is also managing a LNG terminal. The Orient Shipyard company is present there. In 2015, its capacity was of 266 million RT.



Busan is the biggest port of the country. Its activity is essentially oriented toward the container management. Many shipyards are present here also. We can quote Hanjin Heavy Industries, Dae Sun Shipbuilding & Engineering, STX Offshore & Shipbuilding. In 2016, Busan managed 19,456,291 TEUs of containers.



Neighbouring the port of Busan, Ulsan port is specialized in the imports of petrol and other bulk shipments. Its oil refinery is also used to provide energy to the nearby industrial region. In Ulsan there is Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hyundai Mipo Dockyards as shipyard companies.

Major Ports of the West Coast


Donghae / Samcheok

In Donghae there is SPP Shipbuilding, another Korean shipyard company.

Sea freight transit times


This table is detailing the usual transit times between Chinese and Korean ports :

Dalian Shanghai Hong Kong Qingdao
Incheon 3 days 5days 7 days 4 days
Pyeongtaek 3 days 5 days 7 days 4 days
Gunsan 4 days 4 days 7 days 4 days
Mokpo 4 days 4 days 7 days 4 days
Gwangyang 4 days 4 days 7 days 5 days
Busan 4 days 4 days 7 days 5 days
Ulsan 4 days 5 days 7 days 5 days
Pohang 5 days 5 days 7 days 5 days
Donghae 5 days 5 days 8 days 6 days
Samcheok 5 days 5 days 8 days 6 days

*Please note that those transit times are just indicative timing between China and Korea


Sea freight rates


*Because transit times and freight total costs are greatly low between the two countries, sea freight will almost always be the best freight solution for your transfer.

In general, maritime freight is always privileged because of two great benefits: you can transfer high quantities, at very competitive rates. Without regarding if you’re in need of a one-shot transfer, or more regular transfer through times, sea freight will surely fit all your needs and requirements.

As detailed before, SINO Shipping is used to work with every kind of goods and volume! Our adaptability will permit us to entirely suit your demand.



Both China and Korea have great international air freight infrastructures and services. China has a network of over 60 tremendous international airports, while Korea, despite its small territory has a dozen of international airports. The two countries have numerous cargo airlines that are linking them. Air Incheon, based in Seoul Incheon International Airport, is linking the Korean capital to the Chinese cities of Jinan, Qingdao and Yantai. Asiana Airlines another Incheon International Airport based Airline is covering a huge number of cities in China. Korean Air is linking Incheon with 22 major Chinese cities. On the other side of the Yellow Sea, China Cargo Airlines and China Southern Airlines are linking the biggest cities of China to Seoul.


Air freight transit times


Door-to-Door, a plane will join South Korea from any Chinese airport in 6 hours at the most. An express freight (courier), will allow a total transfer of your goods, to the precise address in Korea in less than 3 days. Via a regular air freight, from the Chinese supplier to your Korean address, your goods will be carried within a week.

Air freight rates


*There is two methods of calculation that you must use to determine the chargeable weight of your products.

Gross weight and volumetric weight needs to be sorted out. Once it is found, you must keep the highest value, which will serve as a base to quote you.



*Your products will be charged with another method for our express services. The volumetric weight will be calculated with this ratio: 200 CBM = 1 kgs.


trucking service

Thanks to our great network, we’re able to fully cover South Korea with our trucking services. No matter if you’re located far from the cities, your goods will be delivered in the best delay, you just have to ask us. All the ports and airports we’re in Korea have a hub to transfer your goods onto truck.

Freight insurance


All transfer, no matter of the method, are composed with a part of risks. To prevent bad events to happen, SINO Shipping linked with the greatest insurance enterprises for freight coverage. Your cargo will be refunded, in case of any damage on your items. According to our price policy, we’re invoicing our insurances on the base of 2% of the value of your products + freight.

If you cannot tolerate a loss for the sustainability of your business, you should cover your shipment with this additional security, thanks to our insurance.


Make a request and you will be contacted within 24 hours maximum

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Small or big shipment, we can manage every request


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We ensure and secure all our shipments, safety is our priority !
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Recurrent questions regarding the shipping from China to South Korea

What is the shipping cost from China to South Korea?

LCL: 50 USD /cbm FCL: 200 USD /20’: 300 /40’ Express shipping door to door (10kg): 290 USD

How long does it take to ship from China to South Korea?

Average transit time by sea: 6 days Average transit time by airfreight: 5 days (daily direct flight) Express shipping door to door (10kg): 2 days

What are the best freight options to send good from China to South Korea?

There are only 2 options, by sea or by air, it depends on how big the volume and the weight are, and then you will decide which shipping methods is more adequate. You must calculate the ration time/cost.

How much tax will I pay for importing goods from China to South Korea?

A Free Trade Agreement was set in 2015 between the two countries after 4 years of negotiations. China is exporting agricultural products in majority to South Korea. South Korea is exporting automobiles and manufactured products in majority to China. So, the FTA eliminated tariff barriers over 90 % of the goods traded between the two countries.

Do customs open every package?

No, they don't immediately open your package without any reason. ... They will only instantly check what's inside of your package if: Your package has been damaged when it reached the Customs office or desk. The damages can include broken seals or plastic or any cover of your package.

How do I avoid custom charges?

When you make a shipping request, you’ll have to declare the value of your shipment. The value you enter on your request form is the value that will be declared at customs, so it is important that you declare accurately. If you declare too high a value, you may be assessed more taxes than you want to pay! If you declare too low a value, your declared value may be considered unreasonable and adjusted upward.

How can I reduce my shipping costs?

-Negotiate with multiple carriers -Get suppliers to use your shipping account number -Use packaging provided by your carrier -Consider a regional carrier -Use online shipping -Invest in prepaid shipping -Buy insurance from a third party -Factor in all shipping fees before billing customers -Consider hybrid services -Ask about association discounts

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