Korea

Mandatory Organic Standards and Labels

In the Republic of Korea, organic agriculture is regulated by the Act on Promotion of Environment-friendly Agriculture and Fisheries and Management and Support for Organic Food etc. The latest version available in English was published in 2015. Since then, the Act has been updated several times. The revised version which is only available in Korean covers e.g. additional provisions and standards for apiculture and pet food, for inspector management, inspection methods and control procedures as well as a revision of organic input certification methods. The legislation requires that organic products are free from residues of pesticides, with a zero tolerance.

The competent authority is the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA), which is responsible for the implementation of organic legislation as well as for the accreditation of the private certification bodies.

Within MAFRA, the Korean National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service (NAQS) is responsible for the audit of the MAFRA-accredited certification bodies. NAQS also administers the organic import control procedures.

The Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) enforces regulation for general food safety, including the Korean Food Code. Amongst many other things, the Code defines the criteria for designation of products as processed (which is relevant for the question which products are allowed be imported to Korea under organic Equivalence Agreements (EAs)).

Act on Promotion of Environment-friendly Agriculture and Fisheries and Management and Support for Organic Food etc. (English version from 2016)
The Act on Promotion of Environment-friendly Agriculture and Fisheries and Management and Support for Organic Food etc. contains all provisions for organic, environmentally friendly and pesticide free production. Organic is automatically considered to meet the environment friendly provisions, whilst there is zero tolerance for pesticide residues. The latest English version was published in 2016.
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Act on Promotion of Environment-friendly Agriculture and Fisheries and Management and Support for Organic Food etc. (Korean version from 2017)
2017 Korean version of the Act on Promotion of Environment-friendly Agriculture and Fisheries and Management and Support for Organic Food etc. The 2017 version includes updated and additional provisions and standards regarding apiculture and pet food, regulations for inspector management, inspection methods and control procedures as well as a revision of organic input certification methods.
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Korean Food Code
The Code covers all legislation relating to food safety, composition and labelling. It includes the specification of criteria for judging whether a food is considered as ‘processed’ or as an ‘agricultural product’ or as an ‘agricultural processed product’.
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Criteria and standards for processed food – guidelines and definitions
The note published by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) provides interpretation of the Korean Food Code criteria for defining processed food.
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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA)
The website of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) provides comprehensive information on the role and objectives of MAFRA and links to the organic legislation.
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Website on Environment-friendly Agricultural Products Certification
The website informing about the Environment-friendly Agricultural Products Certification is provided by the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service (NAQS).
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Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS)
The website provides comprehensive information on the role and objectives of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS).
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Voluntary Organic Standards and Labels

There is a voluntary national logo owned by the government. Additionally, imported products can be labelled with logos from other countries according to the conditions laid out in the relevant legislation of these countries, e.g. US, Japan, Australia, EU.

Private standards for the organic sector in Korea do not exist.

Act on Promotion of Environment-friendly Agriculture and Fisheries and Management and Support for Organic Food etc. (English version from 2016)
The Act on Promotion of Environment-friendly Agriculture and Fisheries and Management and Support for Organic Food etc. contains all provisions for organic, environmentally friendly and pesticide free production. It also regulates the use of the national logo. The latest English version was published in 2016.
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Control Bodies

The control and certification process is performed by private certification bodies accredited and approved by the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) and audited by the National Agricultural Products Management Service (NAQS).
The directory of accredited certification bodies is published in the EU Equivalence Agreement (EA).

Control Bodies in Korea recognised by MAFRA/NAQS
The list of accredited control bodies in Korea is part of the Equivalence Agreement (EA) with the European Union.
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Import Requirements

Organic products can be imported to the Republic of Korea, if they are certified by organic certification bodies approved to operate in Korea. The list of accredited certification bodies is part of the Equivalence Agreement with the European Union.

Equivalence agreements exist between Korea and the USA and between Korea and the EU. The equivalence agreements only cover products that are classified as ‘processed’ according to the Korean Food Code. These products are permitted to be imported to Korea without being certified by an MAFRA-accredited certification body. Organic products from USA and EU that are not classified as ‘processed’, but instead are classified as either ‘agricultural products’ or ‘simple agricultural processed products’ must be certified by a Korean-based organic certification body accredited and approved by MAFRA.

According to the Korean Food Code ‘processed’ essentially means that the food should not be recognisable as in its original form, but that the food is transformed. Typically, multi-ingredient products will be considered to be processed. Some parts of the definition of ‘processed’ are open to interpretation. In these cases, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) clarifies whether or not the product is considered as ‘processed’. To explain how the criteria are applied, the MFDS published a note (“Criteria and standards for processed food – guidelines and definitions”), which is only available in Korean.

The organic import control procedure is administered by the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service (NAQS). Products imported to Korea must be accompanied by the NAQS Import Certificate completed by the certification body of the exporting business.

NAQS Import Certificate
Import Certificate that must accompany imported organic processed products. It has to be completed by the certification body of the business exporting to Korea.
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Korean Food Code
The Korean Food Code lays down detailed standards and definitions for all food. It covers seven volumes, regularly updated, most recently in 2017. Only available in Korean. Organic food imported under Equivalence Agreements (EAs) must conform to the definition of processed, as laid out in the Food Code in Vol. 3, Section 3, para 42.
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MFDS Criteria and standards for processed food – guidelines and definitions
The guide, published by MFDS (available in Korean) in November 2016, includes the criteria that define processed food as per the Korean Food Code and explains how the criteria are applied.
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Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS)
The website provides comprehensive information on the role and objectives of Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS). In cases auf uncertainty, the MFDS clarifies whether a product is considered as processed.
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Information on Equivalence Agreements (EAs) with USA and EU
Information on the Equivalence agreements with USA and EU provided by the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service (NAQS).
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Equivalence Agreement (EA) between EU and Korea
The Equivalence Agreement (EA) defines the terms of the agreement, initially in force for three years (to January 2018), now extended indefinitely. The EA allows for import of ‘processed’ foods into Korea.
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EU Commission Agricultural & Rural Development – Organic Farming - Korea
EU organic pages on the equivalency agreement with Korea providing links to regulation and documentation.
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USDA Agricultural Marketing Service – International Trade Policies: Korea
USDA information on the equivalency agreement between Korea and USA providing links to regulation and documentation.
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Further Information

Further information on organic agriculture in Korea.

Global Organic Trade Guide: Republic of Korea
Website of the American Organic Trade Association (OTA) providing information on international organic trade. Although designed for U.S. exporters, some of the provided information might also be interesting for exporters from other countries.
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Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA): Country Report on the Republic of Korea
The country report on food and agricultural import regulations and standards (FAIRS) in the Republic of Korea is provided by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
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EU Gateway Programme for Organic Food and Beverage to Korea
EU Gateway programme for EU organic businesses to develop markets for their organic products in Korea. The programme, supported by the EU Commission, enables business missions to Korea.
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