Country-of-origin labelling: South Korea seeks public opinion on standardising label requirements for food products

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

South Korea is looking to standardise the regulations governing country-of-origin information mandatory to be displayed food and beverages both produced locally and imported into the country. ©Getty Images
South Korea is looking to standardise the regulations governing country-of-origin information mandatory to be displayed food and beverages both produced locally and imported into the country. ©Getty Images

Related tags South korea Country of origin labelling Labelling

South Korea is looking to standardise the regulations governing country-of-origin information mandatory to be displayed food and beverages both produced locally and imported into the country, in an attempt to ease high cost burdens highlighted by manufacturers.

One of the most contested issues for current country-of-origin (COO) labelling on products in South Korea is regarding the size of fonts and labels, with different standards laid out for domestic and imported products.

At present, imported products such as processed foods are required to attach COO information in different font sizes according to the available packaging area and product size, a requirement deemed to be unfair by many manufacturers importing larger-sized products into the country.

“The new proposed standards will see a standardization of mandatory COO label font sizes for both imported and locally produced food products at size 10,”​ the local Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) said via a formal statement.

“Current requirements for imported products are for COO label fonts to be size 20 or more if the packaging surface area is 3,000cm2​ or more; to be size 12 or more for a 50cm2​or more packaging surface area, and then at least size eight if below this area is available.

“Removing the need to increase printed font size of the COO based on the packaging surface area is expected to reduce burdens for the manufacturers such that it is easier to adhere to a standard set of directions, and also solve the problem of unfairness for imports.”

For products that use labels printed on cans or bottles where the rest of the packaging cannot clearly carry such printed information other than on the label, this surface area will be calculated based on the area of the label, as long as this is already in accordance with existing Food Labelling and Advertising standards.

The amendments will also extend to food products sold via online e-commerce platforms, where a common issue has been slower processing due to a lack of standardisation of the location of the COO label, which has also been taken care of in the draft standards.

“Currently the regulations state that the COO label should be attached ‘around the product name or price tag’,”​ MAFRA added.

“To remove any ambiguity, the new proposed standards will change the COO display requirements to be attached ‘next to, above or below the price tag’ for easier locating and faster processing throughout the supply chain.”

Public can be submitted until June 19 2023. All responses to MAFRA can be submitted online here​, and more detailed information on these proposed changes can be found here​.

No excuses for not paying

South Korea has long had an issue with COO declaration for both domestic and imported food products, and has recently also opted to revise current regulations under which individuals will be penalised for the false declaration of any of their products’ country of origin.

“There has been a recent increase in cases where the regulations guiding product origin indication and labelling have been violated,”​ MAFRA said.

“As such, there is a need to improve the collection of information to ensure that violators are not able to escape punishment via any loopholes – for example, the revised regulations will show that the only circumstance accepted that those under penalty don’t pay on time will be for ‘causes equivalent to natural disasters or emergencies’ as opposed to ‘natural disasters or other unavoidable reasons’.

“Additionally, when processing such cases we will move to collect not just the identification information of the foreigners or residents who have violated this act, but also the relevant passport numbers and foreign registration numbers.

“Heavier penalties, monitoring or blacklisting will also be given to violators that have committed this act twice within two years, as opposed to more than twice within two years previously.”

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