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How to fast track food exports to South Korea

Registered establishments meeting certain requirements can enter their products in this country under a fast-track system. 

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Like many other countries, South Korea, one of the most important markets in Asia, has strict sanitary and phytosanitary requirements for the entry of food products into its territory. The main objective of the Framework Act on Food Security and the Food Sanitation Act – the main regulations covering the subject-, is to ensure the quality of food products reaching Korean store shelves. 

One of the requirements laid down is product inspection: the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) can analyze anything ranging from the products’ documentation to the product itself, either through visual or tactile contact or through lab studies.

The government of South Korea created an importers’ register: The Good Importing Practices System (GIP Importer)

In order to facilitate the import of products from registered manufacturing facilities, the Government of Korea created an importers’ register -  The Good Importing Practices System (GIP Importer)-, available to all food product producers in the world. In this regard, if the facility meets a series of requirements, the product does not require inspection and can enter the county under a fast-track system.

How to enter the system

What are the requirements? The criteria for certifying an exporting facility or establishment are based on good manufacturing practices (GMP), which include five measures. 

In first place, the ingredients and packaging must be treated in a good state of sanitation; following inspection of the ingredients or packaging, the results must be kept as a record. 

In second place, the producer’s manufacturing facilities must meet safety requirements: they must be located 20 meters away from animal feces or chemical contaminants; or a protection plan against these contaminants must be in place. Additionally, the facility must have a good ventilation system, and the work area must be properly separated from areas with contamination potential. 

Manufacturing/processing, packaging and ingredient treatment areas must be separated, unless the process is done automatically or if due to the products’ features, it is not required. Also, facilities must have a proper drainage system to avoid all contamination; floor, wall and ceiling materials must be waterproof.   

Doors, windows, ventilation and drainage systems must protect against insects, rats and dust; equipment and tool areas that are in direct contact with floors must be waterproof (stainless steel, aluminum, fiber-reinforced polymer and Teflon). Likewise, freezers, refrigerators and heating appliances must have thermostats ensuring adequate temperature. 

Bathrooms should be kept clean and must have personal hygiene areas. Equipment for detecting and removing foreign materials, such as metal detectors, must be correctly operated and handled. Storage, manufacturing/processing and packaging areas must be kept clean.   

In third place, the establishment must comply with certain personal hygiene requirements. Those in direct contact with food must use hygienic shoes, caps and uniforms and not wear any personal objects while working – such as rings or bracelets-, in order to prevent any contamination coming from same. 

Furthermore, upon entering the work area all personnel must clean their hands, or disinfect them if necessary, among other preventive measures. Finally, people with diarrhea, suppurations or any contagious illness must not manipulate food. 

In fourth place, the plan must follow certain criteria for managing food safety during manufacturing or processing. Tools and equipment directly used in food manufacturing or processing must be cleaned and pasteurized after use.   

During processing, food must be handled in such a way as to avoid any contamination or spread of small microorganisms. Waste containers must be sealed to prevent the release of waste water or odors. Also, water used for cleaning and processing must meet drinking water requirements.   

Final ingredients and products must be properly stored and transported at adequate temperatures, depending on their characteristics.  

Finally, finished products must meet certain safety criteria. They must be approved by the GIP importer based in the country of origin, and the results must be available up to one year after the product’s date of expiry.  

The final product must be stored in good sanitation conditions to prevent any possible contamination with microorganisms. Likewise, ingredients and packaging must be submitted to tests to avoid any hazards.  

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