Monday, November 21, 2011

Duties on Items Mailed to Korea?

Dear Korean,

My daughter is in Korea teaching English at a school in Gwangju. Her mother and I gave her a new iPod as a parting gift, but when she got Korea she found it didn’t work. She mailed it back to us so we could take it back to the Apple store. Where we bought it. They confirmed that it was defective and replaced it, and we would like to mail the replacement to our daughter, but we have read that she may have to pay a lot in duty and other taxes if we do. Can you suggest how I might be able to get some definitive information about that potential problem and about what, if anything, we can do about it?

Jonathan G.

For the answer to this question, there is no better place to ask than Korea Customs Service. Basically, the rule is that an item around KRW 150,000 won (a little less than $150) that is imported for a personal use is duty-free. But even if an item is under KRW 150,000 won, it may be subject to a custom duty if the customs office believe it is not for personal use. The Korean would imagine that a refurbished iPod would probably pass.

All international packages are first examined for their description written on the shipping label, then they pass through an x-ray machine. Should the customs office decide that the item is subject to a custom duty based on the examination, the recipient pays the tax when she picks up the package at the local post office. The tax rate is different for different items, but they generally range between 20 to 35%.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. When she gets her new iPod, she should be careful to use a proper electric transformer to charge it. I had a similar problem with electronics shipped from the US that appeared defective on startup, and after a little belated research I've come to suspect it was because I was using one of those little airport adaptors that does not actually convert voltage.

  2. I have an ecommerce site and occasionally ship to Korea without any trouble. Just mark the US customs form 'gift' and enter a low value number. If you hand write the address label it also looks less like 'merchandise' since it's personal packaging.

  3. I hope this still applies. It is afterall 5 yrs later but, I have marked my package as a gift because it is and hope there are no fees for my friend. It's gift wrapped inside the main box so hopefully they'll simply run it through the xray and not need to open it and mess up the wrapping paper. *fingers crossed*

  4. I've just sent a parcel to South Korea and majorly under valued the package. It's a gift for my friend and again it's gift wrapped under external box and ofcourse the address is handwritten. I just am praying that there's no problem with custom. *fingers crossed* The main reason for me undervaluing the package was that I didn't want my friend to know the actual cost and i didn't want her to pay for a gift. What's the worst that can happen if it gets caught up in customs?


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