Travelers from all over the world have South Korea on their bucket list. If you are among those planning a trip to this Southeast Asian country, it is important you are aware of their list of restricted items so you don’t run into trouble when crossing their border.
You can start by verifying whether you are required to carry a South Korea tourist visa. Fortunately, foreign nationals visiting South Korea will soon be able to obtain a South Korea eVisa online, without even having to leave the comfort of their home or office. This means that they will no longer have to visit a South Korean mission in order to apply for a traditional visa, thus saving them time and effort.
The second would be to discuss health information and vaccines for South Korea with their healthcare practitioner a few weeks prior to their trip. Depending on your country of origin, you may be required to get one or more shots several weeks before your departure.
The third, less popular yet truly important aspect of planning your trip to South Korea would be to consider what items are restricted or prohibited from entry into the country.
These matters are not taken lightly by South Korean customs officers, so much so, that in the event that a traveler is found carrying prohibited items into South Korea, the forbidden items are highly likely to be confiscated.
Additionally, tourists found carrying prohibited material or restricted items while going through the required customs investigation at the airport will be subject to punishment according to the Korean laws regarding customs.
It is for this reason that travelers are advised to avoid carrying certain restricted items, whether they are entering or leaving the country. Read our expert travel recommendations to help you pack accordingly prior to your visit. That way, you can ensure a smooth entry to South Korea upon your arrival.
Restricted Items for Travelers Visiting South Korea
International passengers visiting South Korea are required to avoid carrying the following restricted items in their luggage when you travel to Korea:
- Weapons of all kinds, including replicas, and toys resembling guns or swords. Gunpowder and explosives are also restricted.
- Illegal drugs: Opium, marijuana or cannabis, cocaine, amongst others.
- Wildlife protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, also known as CITES, as well as products or materials made from these animals. This includes, but is not limited to, medicinal products formulated with one of these endangered species within its ingredients. The following products are equally restricted: handbags, wallets, stoles, taxidermy, and ivory made from endangered animals such as elephants, leopards, and alligators.
- The maximum means of payment in a foreign or domestic currency may not exceed the sum of $10,000 USD.
- Similarly, travelers may not carry cashier’s checks, overdraft checks, postal money orders, etc.
- Travelers’ checks exceeding $10,000 USD must be declared to customs upon arrival and departure from South Korea
- Precious metals except for gold accessories such as rings or necklaces exclusively destined for personal daily use. The importation and exportation of such items is restricted.
- Goods subject to the Fisheries Act and the Rules on Migration and Approval of Marine Animals and Plants.
- Toxic goods that may threaten the quality of water resources and the growth of saplings for culturing within South Korea.
- Plants, fruits & vegetables, and agricultural and forestry products (restricted import/export).
- Animal products (including meat, skin, fur, etc.), livestock, and animal fodder (restricted import).
Prohibited Items for Travelers Visiting South Korea
Travelers visiting South Korea are forbidden to enter the country carrying the following prohibited items:
- Books, photos, films, and other items of similar nature that are in direct violation of constitutional orders, or may result harmful to the public order and customs of South Korea.
- Items or documents containing confidential information regarding government or intelligence activities.
- Counterfeit, forged, or fake money, banknotes, bonds, amongst others.
South Korea Animal Quarantine Policy
Travelers with the following characteristics are required to undergo the appropriate inspection procedure prior to their entry in South Korea:
- Individuals carrying live animals and/or animal products, such as, but not limited to, leather, animal feed, etc.
- Tourists who have recently visited a farm or whose work involves animals such as veterinarians, feed suppliers, etc.
Please note that all live animals and animal products entering national territory must be accompanied by valid quarantine or heat treatment certificates issued by the country of departure.
The following items must be declared during arrival or departure from South Korea:
- Meat and poultry items: beef, pork, lamb, chicken, etc.
- Processed meat products: ham, sausage, bacon, beef jerky, marinated beef, canned meats, etc.
- Animal bone items: antlers, bones, horns, tusks, etc.
- Egg products: whole eggs, egg whites, powdered eggs, etc.
- Dairy products: milk, cheese, butter, etc.
Animal products from approved export countries are required to go through the quarantine process as well. Travelers carrying a certificate of quarantine from export countries meeting local import sanitation requirements will be permitted to bring their products into the country, as long as there are no problems with these products, upon arrival inspection in Korea.
Please note that items including live animals and processed meats, originating from or passing through countries where a contagious livestock disease outbreak is happening, are prohibited.
South Korea Plant Quarantine Policy
Travelers visiting the country while carrying plants, orchids, nursery stock, soil as well as other items of similar nature, are required to report those items to customs authorities in order to undergo the appropriate inspection procedure.
The following must be declared during arrival or departure from South Korea:
- Fruits, vegetables, cut flowers, seeds, kernels, sapling, bulbs or tubers, roots, nuts, dried or fresh agricultural products, medical herbs as well as various other related plant items.
Please note that items originating from or passing through prohibited regions are forbidden in South Korea. Some examples include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Unshelled walnuts, unripe beans, unpeeled potatoes, and sweet potatoes, planted crops (ginseng, mushrooms, etc.), and planted saplings.
- Live pests and insects (Including pet insects such as tarantulas).
- Saplings and cuttings, including those from the Maloideae subfamily (such as apple trees, pear trees, etc.), the Rutaceae subfamily (such as tangerine trees, orange trees, etc.), grapevines, pine trees, etc.
Now that we’ve covered the items you should not carry during your trip, let’s briefly go over some things you are required to carry when entering South Korea, such as an approved visa —depending on your nationality— and a valid passport.
Travelers from visa-waiver and non-visa-waiver countries alike may be required to apply for an eVisa online in the near future. Since the final list of eligible countries has not yet been officially announced, make sure to check this website regularly for updates. The application process will be straightforward and require no more than a few minutes to complete. Once your eVisa is approved, come back to this article while preparing for your trip so you make sure to pack accordingly.