Importing a Vehicle into South Korea

Information on importing a car or motorcycle into South Korea and the country’s car industry: shipping, dealing with customs and how to register the vehicle once it is in the country...

The Korean Car Industry

South Korea has a very strong car industry. It is the fifth largest producer and sixth largest exporter of cars in the world. Most of the cars manufactured in the country are sold overseas. The industry leads in technology, design and vehicle performance. It is growing and is very important to the country's economy. The biggest South Korean vehicle manufacturer is the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group.

Foreign cars are very expensive to buy compared with domestic models. The high customs duties when importing a car mean that many people choose to buy a car when they move to the country, rather than import one.

Importing a Car

It is possible to import a foreign car into South Korea if the owner plans to live in the country for at least one year. Cars may also be imported by people entering the country with a family member and planning to stay for a minimum of six months. The only exception is that Japanese cars are not allowed. Only small and medium sized vehicles may be imported; mobile homes, trucks and other vehicles which seat more than 10 passengers are not allowed.

The car must have been owned and registered in the name of the person importing it for at least three months before shipping. If a car is imported into the country within six months of the owner moving to South Korea, it will be classed as being part of their household goods. This means that the car will not be subject to further tests after it clears customs.

Shipping

A car being shipped for import must be listed on a shipping inventory. Full details of the car including the make and model, registration details and the year are needed. Most shipping companies require the following documents:

  • An original certificate of registration
  • An invoice or receipt that provides proof of purchase for the vehicle and states the amount paid for it
  • Passport of the importer
  • Insurance
  • A customs declaration
  • A work permit, valid for at least one year

The car should be thoroughly cleaned before being shipped.

Customs

A car being imported into South Korea must clear customs. The car must be recognised by customs as part of the moving cargo. Duty is charged on both new and used vehicles. For a used car, the amount charged depends on the vehicle's value and its age. For new cars, the amount of duty payable depends on the car's engine size. The Korean Customs Service should be contacted for more precise details on the duty to be paid.

If the person importing the car has lived in South Korea for more than six months, the car is not classed as being part of their household goods. In this case, the vehicle is subject to the following tests once it has cleared customs:

  • A noise and vibration inspection
  • A vehicle type and model approval, which is carried out by the Korea Automobile Test and Research Institute
  • An emissions inspection

Documents

For a foreign car to clear customs, the following original documents are required:

  • Registration documents
  • An invoice or other proof of purchase
  • Insurance paperwork (this can be a copy)

Registering a Vehicle in South Korea

Once a vehicle has been imported into South Korea it needs to be registered. This can be done at a local registration centre, which is part of the local gu-office. A "gu" is a district of a city and gu-offices are the local or district government offices where most of the district administration takes place. They are open during normal government business hours from Monday to Friday.

The following documents are needed, along with a completed vehicle registration application:

  • A passport and a certified copy of an Alien Registration Card
  • An import declaration or certificate
  • Proof of ownership
  • Certificates from any safety tests on the vehicle when it entered the country
  • A permit for temporary driving and a temporary tag number

The cost of registering a vehicle depends on the type of car. Individuals must register their cars in the district where they live, as identified on their Alien Registration Card.

Motorcycles

Motorcycles, both used and new, can be imported into South Korea. The motorcycle must be registered in the name of the person importing it or one of their close family members. Duty is charged on all motorcycles imported, depending on their value. To clear customs, the same documents are needed as for cars (see above).

All motorcycles with an engine size over 50cc must undergo the following tests:

  • Emissions tests
  • A noise and vibration inspection
  • A type and model approval

Further Information

  • Seoul Global Centre information on registering a car: Click here (in the blue bar scroll to the "Living" option, click on "Driving" and then select "Purchasing a Vehicle")