The Complete Guide to Shipping from South Korea to the US

Jun 13, 2022 Lilia Khovrak Lilia Khovrak

In the past few decades, South Korea has become one of the most successful countries in the world. It is now a hub for high-tech industries and has a GDP per capita of $32,500.

The country's rapid economic growth has also led to an increase in international trade and exports. In 2021, South Korea exported $510 billion worth of goods to other countries around the world. This makes it the fifth largest exporter in the world.

The US is one of South Korea's biggest trading partners. In 2021, US imports from South Korea were worth $59 billion while exports to America were worth $41 billion - making it America’s tenth largest trading partner.

Shipping from South Korea to the United States is a complex process that requires a lot of planning and attention to detail. This article will help you understand the process and make shipping from South Korea to the US easier.


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What costs do I need to consider when shipping from South Korea to the US?

Shipping costs may differ greatly depending on a number of factors. These include the volume, weight, and dimensions of the package(s) being shipped, the goods of the package(s), and the mode of transportation. It's also vital to think about the shipment's insurance and the time of year.

SeaRates can help calculate the cost of shipping from South Korea to the USA, but as a general rule: 

- Air freight is typically more expensive than sea freight (although it can be cheaper to send small packages via plane).

- Shipping expensive goods that carry a high insurance premium will increase your shipping costs.

- If you can’t fill a shipping container with your goods, LCL shipping (less than container load) is a cheaper shipping method than FCL shipping (full container load). 

Considering these cost factors can feel overwhelming. SeaRates’ Logistics Explorer can help you figure out the best freight rates; to see what your options are, all you need to know is your ports of origin and destination, when you plan to ship your cargo, and what type of shipment you’re sending. 

In general, the cheapest shipping from South Korea to the USA would be FCL shipping via the ocean outside of the peak time of year. 


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How long does it take to move cargo from South Korea to the USA? 

Shipping cargo door-to-door from South Korea to the USA could take anything up to 53 days depending upon your chosen port of origin and destination, what is being shipped, and the method of transportation. 

Air freight is the fastest transportation method, with cargo taking between 2 and 8 days to reach its destination port in the USA. 

Ocean freight takes longer. It can take up to 40 days for goods to reach their US destination port from South Korea. 

 

Sea, Air freight time from South Korea to the USA



Port to port 
Door to door
Sea FCL
16-40 days
50-53 days
Sea LCL
15-25 days
28-33 days
Air cargo
2-8 days
6-12 days



When is the best time to ship from South Korea to the USA?

Both air and sea freight rates – especially for FCL shipping – are affected by seasonal factors. 

The main peak season to consider when shipping from South Korea to the USA is from mid-August to mid-October, ahead of the holiday shopping season. During peak times, prices increase because demand is high and container space is low. It is, therefore, cheaper to ship freight away from the peak season. 

When in the month you choose to transport goods can also make a difference to the price.

It can be cheaper to book a shipment in the last two weeks of the month because carriers are trying to fill spots on vessels. The beginning of the month can be a more expensive time, as carriers can levy General Rate Increases on cargo spots.

Generally, the cheapest shipping costs come from booking early.

 

What are the rates for shipping from South Korea to the USA? 

As shipping rates can vary significantly, the SeaRates Logistics Explorer can help to find a quote to suit you.

After adding in the basic details, such as the destination and date of shipment, the marketplace will allow you to compare various freight journeys. This allows you to view the details of how your shipment will be processed and the duration of transit. The marketplace also provides a cost breakdown for each leg of the journey, to help you control your budget and spend. 

You can request a more tailored quote. This more detailed process asks specific questions about your shipment, such as its commodity type, its HS Code, and its weight. SeaRates will then contact you directly with some options.

Taking a practical approach to your packaging requirements when shipping cargo is vital. You will need to consider your shipment’s weight, dimensions, and what packaging material you will require.

While there is a lot to think about, SeaRates’ Load Calculator can help you understand what your shipment will look like and the space it will need. 

The Load Calculator will ask you a series of questions about your shipment, including what equipment you will need to ship, your cargo dimensions, and what method of shipping you will use. 

The calculator will finally produce an image of what your cargo will look like in your chosen container, as well as the total volume and weight it will reach.

 

What are the essential documents that need to be completed when shipping from South Korea to the USA? 

Correctly packaged and labelled cargo is essential for it to have a smooth journey from South Korea through the customs clearance process in the USA. Having the necessary documents such as an importation permit for certain goods, a commercial invoice, and a packing list is also key. 

The documents you need when shipping to the USA include:

- Commercial Invoice

- Packing List

- Bill of lading 

- Certificate of origin 

- Letter of Credit or other payment terms 

You may also need a special permit if you’re shipping certain goods like hazardous materials.


Should you insure your container? 

We encourage our customers to always insure their cargo. Cargo insurance is often the only protection you have if your shipment is damaged or lost. 

You can find cargo insurance via the freight forwarding community or a third-party insurance agent. SeaRates can also help find the right insurance policy for you. 

Insurance costs are typically in the region of 0.3% to 0.5% of your Commercial Invoice value.

 

What are the major shipping ports in South Korea?

Your factory, supplier, or freight forwarder will likely be happy to offer advice on which port is right for you. Certain ports may prove better for you based on their location, customs processes, and goods handling volumes, or perhaps your factory has a special agreement with a particular port. 

 

Major ocean cargo ports in South Korea include: 

  • Pusan
  • Ulsan
  • Incheon

 

Major air cargo ports in South Korea include: 

  • Pusan
  • Jeju
  • Seoul

 

What are the major shipping ports in the USA?

 

Major ocean cargo ports in the USA include: 

  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Houston 

 

Major air cargo ports in the USA include: 

  • Chicago O’Hare
  • New York, JFK
  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Philadelphia

Lilia Khovrak is a professional content manager from Odessa, Ukraine. Loves life by the sea. Dreams to see Paris and eat a croissant on the thresholds of Notre Dame de Paris. Hates to read meaningless articles.