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Ocean & Air Freight Shipping to Korea

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South Korea imported goods worth $535 billion (USD) in 2018, making it the eighth-largest importer in the world. The top import countries are neighboring China and Japan, as well as the United States. If you want to import to South Korea and take part in this active trade, you’ve arrived on the right page.

Our aim is to simplify ocean and air shipping to South Korea for you. That’s why we’ve published this page to provide vital information about various transport methods, shipping rates, transit times, customs clearance procedures, and ports.


What Are Your Options for Shipping Freight to South Korea?

Most cargo enters South Korea either by sea or by air. Each of these modes of transport has its pros and cons, which we will discuss on this page to help you make the right choice for your business.


Ocean Freight to South Korea

Less than Container Load (LCL): Booking an LCL shipment to South Korea means that your goods will be transported in a container next to the freight of other shippers for the entire journey. The advantage is that you only have to pay for the space and weight that your cargo occupies, not the whole container. That makes LCL a cost-effective shipping solution for smaller shipments.

Full Container Load (FCL): When you book an FCL shipment to South Korea, the entire container is yours. To gain maximum value from the cost of FCL ocean freight, most shippers stuff as much cargo inside their containers as possible. As you will pay a flat rate, FCL is recommended for shipping large product quantities to South Korea.


Air Freight to South Korea

Air freight is your best bet if you require short transit times and flexibility in your supply chain. However, flying your products to South Korea will typically cost a lot more than sending them via sea.


How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo to South Korea?

The ultimate cost of ocean and air shipping to South Korea depends on many criteria. The following are the main factors that freight forwarders look at when preparing quotes:

  • Nature of goods
  • Chosen mode of transport (FCL, LCL, Air)
  • Weight of the cargo
  • Dimensions of the cargo
  • Distance between origin and destination
  • Type of service (such as port-to-port, door-to-door)

Your cargo weight has one of the largest impacts on the final price. Here is a handy rule of thumb to remember:

  • If you are shipping more than 100 kg, then ocean freight will likely be the most affordable option.
  • If you have less than 100 kg to move, on the other hand, ocean and air shipping costs will roughly come out to the same.
  • If your goods weigh less than 35 kg, most freight forwarders, including Shipa Freight, won’t handle your cargo. You can engage an international courier service instead.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo to South Korea?

Hourglass and a calendar to represent the transit time of shipments with Shipa Freight

How long it will take your cargo to reach its consignee in South Korea will mainly depend on the ocean port or airport of origin. Air freight shipments from most major international airports can arrive in South Korea in two to eight days. Ocean freight, on the other hand, will take anywhere from three to 51 days.


How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Sea to South Korea?

Here, you can see some examples of transit times for shipping containers from various international ports to South Korea:

Country of Origin Port of Origin Destination Port Transit Time LCL Transit Time FCL
Australia Brisbane Incheon 36 days
Australia Fremantle Busan 27 days
Australia Melbourne Incheon 31 days
Australia Melbourne Busan 21 Days
Brazil Santos Busan 37 days
Canada Vancouver Busan 16 days
China Shanghai Busan 3 days 4 days
Colombia Buenaventura Busan 28 days
India Kolkata Busan 13 days
India Chennai Busan 21 days 25 days
India Chennai Incheon 29 Days
India Mundra Busan 26 Days
India Mundra Incheon 31 Days
India Nhava Sheva Busan 30 days 24 days
India Nhava Sheva Incheon 28 Days
India Krishnapatnam Busan 27 Days
Indonesia Jakarta Incheon 31 days
Indonesia Jakarta Busan 10 Days 15 Days
Indonesia Semarang Incheon 21 Days 21 Days
Indonesia Surabaya Busan 19 Days 17 Days
Indonesia Surabaya Incheon 31 Days
Indonesia Belawan Incheon 21 Days
Japan Kobe Busan 4 days
Malaysia Port Klang Busan 9 days
Norway Oslo Incheon 51 days
Norway Oslo Busan 51 Days
Pakistan Karachi Busan 36 days
Singapore Singapore Busan 11 days 13 days
Singapore Singapore Incheon 9 Days
The Netherlands Rotterdam Incheon 51 days
UAE Jebel Ali Incheon 27 days
UAE Jebel Ali Busan 24 Days
USA Los Angeles Busan 23 days 23 days
USA Chicago Busan 38 Days
USA Long Beach Incheon 24 Days

How Long Does It Take to Ship Cargo by Air to South Korea?

Here, you can see some sample transit times for air shipments to South Korea from different international airports:

Country of Origin Airport of Origin Destination Airport Transit Time
Canada Montreal Seoul-Incheon 4 days
China Shanghai-Pudong Seoul-Incheon 2 days
France Paris Seoul-Incheon 8 Days
India Delhi Seoul-Incheon 2 days
India Chennai Seoul-Incheon 5 days
Indonesia Jakarta Seoul-Incheon 5 days
Indonesia Surabaya Seoul-Incheon 7 days
Italy Milan-Malpensa Seoul-Incheon 4 days
Malaysia Penang Seoul-Incheon 3 days
Oman Muscat Seoul-Incheon 3 days
UAE Dubai Seoul-Incheon 5 days
USA Atlanta Seoul-Incheon 5 days
USA Charlotte Seoul-Incheon 6 days
USA Houston Seoul-Incheon 5 Days
USA New york Seoul-Incheon 5 Days
USA Los Angeles Seoul-Incheon 7 days
USA Philadelphia Seoul-Incheon 7 Days
USA Seattle Seoul-Incheon 5 Days

Import Customs Clearance in South Korea

For your cargo to officially enter South Korea, it has to have the import clearance from the South Korean customs authorities. Customs clearance is a crucial step in the shipping process. Most shippers entrust this task to a qualified freight forwarder to avoid any issues or delays. It’s the best way to ensure peace of mind that all South Korean customs rules, as well as international shipping regulations, are being followed.

To start the clearance process, you will have to gather and submit the necessary documents. As a minimum, South Korean customs officials will ask for the following paperwork:

  1. Commercial Invoice
  2. Packing List
  3. Certificate of Origin
  4. Letter of Credit or other payment terms (depends on the contract between the parties involved)
  5. Bill of Lading for ocean freight or Airway Bill for air freight (Shipa Freight will provide this for you)

Presentation of the documents listed above is often sufficient to finalize the customs clearance process. However, the authorities sometimes demand to see further documentation, like certificates, permits, or licenses. You can count on your freight forwarder to support and guide you in this case.

Curious to know more about the various types of documents? Then have a look at our comprehensive documents list. You will find some examples there as well.


Ship Ocean Freight to South Korea: FCL or LCL?

Most commercial goods arrive at South Korean ports on specialized cargo vessels loaded inside 20ft or 40ft shipping containers. These ships can not only hold containers, though. Maritime carriers also offer break-bulk shipping options for sea freight that can’t be containerized.

For now, we will focus on explaining the two alternatives for containerized ocean shipping: LCL and FCL. You will find the benefits and drawbacks of each outlined below.


Less Than Container Load (LCL) Shipping to South Korea

Benefits:

  • You are only paying for the volume that your consignment occupies in the container.
  • Usually the most affordable option for consignments occupying fewer than six standard pallets
  • There’s no need to load and unload the container yourself.
  • Suppliers and buyers can drop off/pick up their goods from the freight forwarder’s warehouse.
  • You can ship your freight right away without waiting for enough orders to fill a container.

Downsides:

  • Your freight has to share a shipping container with other shippers’ goods.
  • Not ideal for fragile, delicate, or perishable products due to the extra handling and movements.
  • The additional process steps can lead to some uncertainty with regard to delivery dates.
  • The shipment process and, hence, the transit times are slightly longer because of the need for freight consolidation and deconsolidation.

Full Container Load (FCL) Shipping to South Korea

Benefits:

  • FCL typically offers shorter transit times than LCL.
  • FCL isolates your cargo in a container until it reaches the final destination
  • It’s often the most cost-effective choice if you have enough goods to occupy at least half of the load capacity of a 20ft container.

Downsides:

  • There’s always a fee to be paid for the entire container, even if it’s not full.
  • Not all businesses can receive shipping containers on their premises.

Cargo Ports of Arrival in South Korea


Busan

Port Facts:

  • Largest port in South Korea.
  • Fifth-busiest container port in the world.
  • Located at the mouth of the Nakdong River, facing Japan’s Tsushima Island.

Owned By: Busan Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >20 million.

UN/LOCODE: KRPUS.


Incheon

Port Facts:

  • Second-largest seaport in Korea and major transportation hub.
  • International port in operation since 1883.
  • Offers 128 berths with a total quay length of 29 kilometers.

Owned By: Incheon Port Authority.

Annual Container Volume: >3 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: KRINC.


Kwangyang

Port Facts:

  • Name is also spelled Gwangyang.
  • Sometimes uses the UN/LOCODE KRKAN.
  • Situated in South Jeolla Province, 125 km southwest of Busan.
  • Handles 200 million tonnes of ocean freight per year.
  • Container terminal spans 4,231 square kilometers.

Owned By: Yeosu Regional Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Office.

Annual Container Volume: >2.4 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: KRKWA.


Pyeongtaek

Port Facts:

  • Officially known as Port of Pyeongtaek-Dangjin.
  • Important gateway to the metropolitan areas in central South Korea.
  • Large industrial complexes are located close to the port.
  • Closest port to China —just 350 km from the Chinese mainland.

Owned By: Pyeongtaek Regional Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Office.

Annual Container Volume: < 1 million TEUs.

UN/LOCODE: KRPTK.


Masan

Port Facts:

  • Located on the shores of Masan Bay, serving the northeastern regions of South Korea.
  • Convenient connection to the Port of Busan by road and rail.
  • Covers an area of 1,400 hectares and 28 km of coastline.
  • Best for suppliers based in the Changwon Industrial Complex.

Owned By: Masan Regional Maritime Affairs and Port Office.

Annual Container Volume: Unknown.

UN/LOCODE: KRMAS.


Air Shipping for Your Freight to South Korea

Benefits:

  • Best used for small shipments (two to three pallets at the most) due to the high cost.
  • Products with a short shelf-life can benefit from the ultra-fast shipping times.
  • Very reliable as less affected by the weather than ocean freight
  • Tight security standards make it a viable option for high-value freight.
  • Suppliers and buyers based near international airports might favor air freight as a shipping method.

Downsides:

  • Can be very pricey for large quantities of freight.
  • Not an option for bulky or awkwardly shaped goods that can’t be loaded into an aircraft.

Learn more about Air Freight on our dedicated page by clicking here.


Airports of Arrival in South Korea


Seoul-Incheon (IATA Code: ICN)

Airport Facts:

  • Largest airport in the country.
  • Third-busiest airport in Asia for cargo traffic.
  • Located on an artificially created piece of land between the islands of Yeongjong and Yongyu
  • Has won multiple awards.

Ocean and Air Shipping to South Korea: Why Choose Shipa Freight?

Transporting your freight to South Korea is now easier than ever with Shipa Freight. No matter the size of your business, we can satisfy your international ocean and air shipping logistics needs. Speed up your supply chain with our cutting-edge online platform that’s at the forefront of freight forwarding.

Take advantage of the following benefits when you ship your freight to South Korea with us:

  • Online quotes ready in an instant.
  • Quick and straightforward online booking and payment.
  • One single platform for all your imports and exports.
  • Intricate customs clearance processes taken care of for you.
  • Transparent, easy-to-understand shipping documents.
  • Friendly customer service, available 24/7 via phone, email, and online chat.
  • Complete compliance with national and international shipping laws and regulations.

“With Shipa Freight, I could do everything from quotation to booking with just a click”.

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