Discusses the legal requirements for selling to the host government, including whether the government has agreed to abide by the WTO Government Procurement Agreement or is a party to a government procurement chapter in a U.S. FTA. Specifies areas where there are opportunities.
Last Published: 8/29/2019
Government Procurement
Korea is an established member of the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agency (GPA) protocols, with non-discriminatory government procurement procedures.
Korea’s GPA commitments include:
  • “Threshold” amounts by certain Korean government agencies and provincial authorities;
  • Procurement commitments in the services and construction industries;
  • A prohibition against offsets as a condition for awarding contracts;
  • A provision allowing suppliers to pursue alleged violations through GPA-defined bid challenge procedures;
  • Annexes specifying certain thresholds below which GPA rules do not apply (approximately $180,000 and, for construction services, approximately $7 million); and
  • Korea is exempted from GPA coverage for items related to national security and defense, procurement of satellites, and purchases of certain types of electrical transmission and distribution equipment by the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO: http://www.kepco.co.kr/eng/).
U.S. companies interested in Korean government procurement must work with Korea’s Public Procurement Service (PPS).  It is highly recommended that U.S. firms maintain a reputable representative or agent in-country to carefully monitor PPS tender opportunities.  Consult: http://www.pps.go.kr/eng/index.do.
PPS supports domestic/indigenous equipment and supplies.  It is also responsible for the purchase of goods and incidental services required by central and sub-central government entities, government construction contracts and the stockpiling of raw materials. There are nine provinces in Korea, seven metropolitan cities, as well as numerous ‘new cities’ (Sejong City, Songdo City, and Hwaseong Dongtan, to name a few).
Bidders must register with PPS at least one business day prior to the date of an opening bid.  Foreign bidders can register with PPS (Korean language only) prior to entering into a contract.  Failure to register constitutes cause for rejection of a bid.
Korea has launched its Korea On-line E-Procurement System (KONEPS) at www.g2b.go.kr.  In part, this system includes:
  • A single window for public procurement, showing the entire process
  • Bids which are valid for at least 45 days
  • Bids must be published with a summary in English, including the subject matter of the contract, the deadline for submission of tender, and the address and contact point from which full documents relating to the contract may be obtained
  • The complete procurement process, with specifications and requirements (Note: Biases against imported products and services are rarely overt; if they occur, these should be brought to the attention of the U.S. Commercial Service in Korea).
The KORUS FTA, in effect since March 15, 2012, has a chapter devoted to government procurement.  Consult: http://www.ustr.gov/.
Many governments finance public works projects through borrowing from Multilateral Development Banks.  Please refer to “Project Financing” Section in “Trade and Project Financing” for more information.
Defense Procurement
Defense procurement is an active part of CS Korea’s portfolio. U.S. companies which sell both to foreign and U.S. military should be cognizant of the importance given to military procurement on the Korean peninsula.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA: http://www.dapa.go.kr/mbshome/mbs/dapa_eng/) is responsible for Korean defense procurement and was established to ensure transparency in the process.  
ROK defense products/equipment are acquired through a sophisticated and mature procurement system which includes direct purchase, sales agents, and importer channels.  U.S. manufacturers/suppliers of defense equipment should use a well-qualified/vetted Korean agent, familiar with the ROK defense system and knowledgeable of key members of the country’s Air Force (ROKAF), Navy (ROKN), Army (ROKA), and Agency for Defense Development (ADD).  CS Korea, through our Gold Key Service program, can assist U.S. defense companies in identifying a potential, well-qualified representative.  Former (retired) ROKAF, ROKN, and ROK A officials have good potential as commissioned representatives in Korea.  Local representatives must register and be certified by DAPA to supply their products and services to the military end-users
A well-selected representative will be able to provide their U.S. supplier/manufacturer with information about the status of defense bids and procurement plans. This is a very mature defense community.  Thus, U.S. defense suppliers should only consider this market if they have a proven track record in the U.S. and/or in other Tier I countries.
Companies wanting to supply their products/systems to Korea’s military are required to register with DAPA; this is a 10 day process.  For more information on the registration and bidding process, refer to DAPA’s procurement portal:  https://www.dapa.go.kr.
U.S. defense industry equipment standards are accepted in Korea as most Korean defense systems are based on American standards.  Interoperability of systems is critical in what is now a 64-year U.S.-ROK defense partnership.

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South Korea Business to Government Legislation