Want to know how Korean duty free works? This post covers that and more!
It has tips on:
- Where to shop
- How to save money
- Shopping tips from a Korean
- And more!
Let’s check it out!
*** Disclaimer ***
The information here is valid as of October 2022. Duty-free rules change regularly. Make sure to check the Korean Customs Service website before traveling to South Korea.
Korean duty free shopping is on another level.
Incheon Airport keeps winning awards for their duty free stores. You can find almost everything at a decent price.
Many K-beauty brands even create exclusive items for duty-free.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can always try to get a tax refund at participating stores all around Korea.
There are a few things you should know before taking out your wallet.
How does duty free work in Korea?
Korea’s Tax Free System can be divided into two categories, duty-free and tax refund.
Duty-free means the taxes are excluded when you shop at a duty-free store. That’s it. No extra steps.
You can find duty free shops at the airport and even downtown Seoul (In this case, you’ll have to purchase in advance, then pick it up at the airport before your flight).
Tax refund means you can get the Value Added Tax (VAT) and Individual Consumption Tax on certain items refunded at the airport before leaving Korea. A little bit of legwork, but opens up your options beyond duty free stores.
Duty-free is arguably the easier of the two, but you’ll have less variety when shopping.
What’s the limit on duty free when I enter Korea?
The total duty-free allowance when entering Korea is $800 per person.
This excludes 2 bottles or 2 L of alcohol (should be valued at less than $400), 60 mL of perfume and one carton of cigarettes. This is to prevent people from selling goods and undercutting local businesses.
For those traveling with family, one Customs Form may be used instead of one for each person.
$800 is still allowed per person, and the above limit still applies (for example, you can’t bring in a 2,000 dollar bottle of cognac without paying tax).
This also excludes 2 bottles or 2 L of alcohol (should be valued at less than $400), 60 mL of perfume, and one carton of cigarettes per person.
For married couples, the combined limit would be $1,600 total. Like before, they can’t bring an individual item that costs over $800 without paying tax.
For example, according to Korea Customs Service, when a family of two brings one purse that costs $1,000, the additional $200 will be taxed.
3 family members including a child can bring duty-free items worth $2,400 as long as each item is less than $800. (Cigarette and liquor are only allowed per adult. So a child can’t bring a carton of reds and brandy)
Remember, if one single item exceeds $800 USD, you must report it.
What’s the limit on Korean duty free when I leave Korea?
There doesn’t seem to be a limit on what non-Korean visitors can buy at Korean duty free. So go nuts.
For Koreans, the limit is $3,000, which is calculated before any discounts are applied. So if a Korean bought a $3,000 watch for $2,000, they would still exceed the purchase limit and be unable to leave Korea with the item.
What are the best duty-free stores in Korea?
The top three duty-free stores in Korea are:
They may look the same at first glance, but carry different brands.
These stores also have new promotions and discounts regularly, so it’s worth shopping around before buying something.
How to save money on Korean duty free
Most Koreans use online duty free shopping a couple days before even entering the airport. They then pick up the item at the airport after checking in. This is the cheapest way to shop duty free in Korea.
Also, make sure to get a COUPON. You can find them easily on the airport shuttle bus or at your hotel. Ask for one at the duty free info desk at the airport.
What to know about Korean duty free as an American
Thanks to the Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), you can bring most store-bought goods back to the states for free. If you’d like to be sure, there’s a super fun tool that allows you to look up tariffs on items.
What happens if I go over the duty-free limit when arriving in Korea?
Not to worry. You’ll just have to pay the duty, plus a penalty if you try to hide it.
Unless you have some super expensive luxury items, you’ll be fine. They’re mainly concerned with people trying to sell things in Korea and undercutting local businesses.
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Did We Miss Anything?
Korea is always stepping up their duty-free game to increase tourist spending.
Make sure to take advantage of their stores to save a ton of money on your trip.
Let us know your experience with Korea duty free in the comments.
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