Questions and Answers
The U.S. has an “equivalence arrangement” with Korea. What does this mean?
This means that organic processed products certified to the USDA or Korean organic standards that meet the origin requirements and other terms of the arrangement may be sold and labeled as organic in both countries. This arrangement eliminates the need for organic operators to have separate organic certification to both U.S. and Korea standards, which avoids a double set of fees, inspections, and paperwork.
What are the origin requirements?
The arrangement is limited to products certified to the USDA organic regulations that have had their final processing occur within the United States and products certified to the Korea organic regulations that have had their final processing occur within Korea.
When does this equivalence arrangement take effect?
The equivalence arrangement is effective as of July 1, 2014.
Does Korea accept the USDA organic seal? Does the U.S. accept Korea’s organic seal?
Yes. As a result of the trade arrangement, either organic seal may be used on products traded under the arrangement. Products traded under the arrangement must meet the labeling requirements in the destination country. See details on the NOP and Korea’s websites:
Which products can be traded under the arrangement?
The scope of the arrangement covers products which:
- Are certified to the USDA or Korean organic regulations
- Are “processed foods,” as defined by the Korean Food Code (see below)
- Have their final processing within the U.S. or Korea
- Contain at least 95 percent organic content
- Korean products: do not contain livestock products produced with the use of antibiotics
Korean Food Code definition of “Processed food”:
“Processed food” means foods manufactured, processed and packaged by: adding food or food additives to food ingredients (agricultural, forest, livestock, or fishery products, etc.); transforming into unrecognizable forms (grinding or cutting, etc.); mixing such transformed ones; or adding food or food additives to such mixture. However, this excludes the agricultural/forest/animal/fishery products that are simply cut, peeled, salted, ripened, or heated (except for the purpose of pasteurization or where such treatment causes significant changes to the ingredients) without using food additives or other ingredients, to the extent that their original forms can still be recognized; provided that during such process, there are no concerns about sanitary risks and that the quality of food can be identified organoleptically.”
Korea’s Guidance for Classification of Processed Food Products
- Classification by addition of food or food additive: Products that have another food or additive added to them.
- Classification by processing: Products that have undergone a processing step as defined above.
- Classification by concern over possible hazards: Minimally processed products that can be consumed right away without cleansing, cooking, etc.
Exporters are encouraged to consult a Korean importer or Korea’s National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service (NAQS) if they have questions about whether their product qualifies as a “processed food.”
What about prohibited substances and methods?
Both the U.S. and Korean organic regulations prohibit similar substances and methods in the production and handling of organic agricultural products. Such prohibited substances and methods include most synthetic pesticides, irradiation, and genetically modified organisms as defined in each country’s regulations.
The USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of antibiotics in livestock, while the Korean organic regulations allow antibiotics only to treat infected animals. For all products derived from livestock traded under this arrangement, Korean certifying agents must verify that no antibiotics were used for any reason.
Both countries also have residue testing programs to verify that prohibited substances and methods were not used. The arrangement allows both countries to check imported organic products to verify that excessive residues of prohibited substances and methods, as defined in the destination country’s regulations, are not present in the final product.
What happens if an organic operation or certifying agent violates the terms of the arrangement?
Significant non-compliances will be reported to both countries and appropriate enforcement actions may be pursued under the respective country’s regulations.
To ensure that the terms of the equivalence arrangement are being met, the U.S. (USDA National Organic Program) and Korea (Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs and National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service) will conduct regular assessments of each other’s organic certification systems.
Shipping USDA organic products from the U.S. to Korea
What is required to ship USDA organic products to Korea?
Products must be certified to the USDA organic standards and must meet all Korea organic labeling requirements. Products must meet the terms of the arrangement and must be accompanied by specific documentation described below.
What documentation is required for USDA organic products shipped to Korea under the arrangement?
USDA organic products exported to Korea under the arrangement must be accompanied by a NAQS Import Certificate of Organic Processed Foods issued by a USDA-accredited certifying agent. The NAQS Import Certificate must be signed by a USDA-accredited certifying agent and must include the following statement: “Certified in compliance with the terms of the U.S.-Korea Organic Equivalency Arrangement.”
Beginning January 1, 2022, the NAQS Import Certificate must be issued by Korea’s e-NAQS Import Certificate System. See the NOP’s Korea webpage for additional information.
How can I export organic products not covered by the arrangement to Korea?
Korea’s law only allows organic equivalence arrangements to cover processed products. Other products, such as fresh cherries or broccoli, need to be certified directly by Korean accredited certifiers.
Can USDA organic products processed outside the U.S. be exported to Korea under this arrangement?
No. In order to be exported to Korea under this arrangement, USDA organic products must have their final processing (as defined above) within the U.S.
Are products in the USDA’s “made with organic...” labeling category included in the arrangement?
No. Korea does not have a “made with organic...” labeling category like the U.S. does. Only products with 95 percent or more organic content may be labeled as organic in Korea.
Shipping Korean organic products to the U.S.
What is required to ship Korean organic products to the U.S.?
Products must be certified to the Korea organic standards and must meet all USDA organic labeling requirements. Products must meet the terms of the arrangement and must be accompanied by specific documentation described below.
What documentation is required for Korean organic products shipped to the U.S. under the arrangement?
Korean organic products exported to the U.S. must be accompanied by a NOP Import Certificate 2110-1 issued by a Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA)-accredited certification body. The Import Certificate must include the following statement: “Certified in compliance with the terms of the U.S.-Korea Organic Equivalency Arrangement.”
How can I export organic products not covered by the arrangement to the U.S.?
Other products, such as fresh pears or onions, need to be certified to the USDA organic standards. View the list of USDA-accredited certifying agents (located around the world).
Can Korean organic products processed outside of Korea be exported to the U.S. under this arrangement?
No. In order to be exported to the U.S. under this arrangement, Korean organic products must have their final processing (as defined above) within Korea.