Describes bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that this country is party to, including with the United States. Includes websites and other resources where U.S. companies can get more information on how to take advantage of these agreements.
Last Published: 9/6/2018
The Republic of Korea and the United States implemented the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement on March 15, 2012.  The Agreement is the largest Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiated by the United States since NAFTA.  For more information about the KORUS FTA, please visit http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/korus-fta.

The Republic of Korea is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum.  One goal of APEC, as outlined in its 1994 declaration, is to establish a Free Trade Area among its member countries by the year 2020.  Substantive principles of the APEC Forum include investment liberalization, tariff reduction, deregulation, government procurement, and strengthening IPR protection.  Korea was the host country for the APEC Summit in 2005.

Korea has Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the European Union, and the European Free Trade Association (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein), U.S., Turkey, and VietnamFor the complete list of Korea’s FTAs, please visit the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs site (http://www.fta.go.kr/main/situation/kfta/ov/).  More information on the EU-Korea FTA can be found on the European Union website at http://ec.europa.eu/trade/creating-opportunities/bilateral-relations/countries/korea/.

The Republic of Korea is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has signed subsidiary agreements including TRIPs (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) and the Government Procurement Agreement.  Korea has been a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) since December 1996.

Licensing Requirements for Professional Services

Under KORUS FTA, Korea will be fully opened to U.S. law firms as of March 2017, allowing them to set up joint ventures with Korean counterparts, hire Korean lawyers and partially practice domestic law.  The plan also allows foreign lawyers to temporarily stay in Korea to handle cases requiring international mediation.  U.S. lawyers can practice in Korea as a “Foreign Legal Consultant” (FLC) under the Korean Foreign Legal Consultants Act of the KORUS FTA.  An attorney from a country with a free trade agreement in place with South Korea is eligible to apply to be an FLC.  They must have at least a three-year work experience in their respective jurisdiction.  In order to hold chief status, they must have seven years of experience overall.  Foreign attorneys must seek approval by the Minister of Justice (http://www.moj.go.kr/HP/ENG/index.do) and register with the Korean Bar Association (https://www.koreanbar.or.kr/eng/pages/main/main.asp).

U.S. accounting firms have to register with the Financial Services Commission (FSC - http://www.fsc.go.kr/eng/) in order to open an office in Korea.  These U.S. firms are then allowed to hire foreign accountants and provide accounting consultations to Korean companies on overseas financial operations only.  They are not allowed to hire Korean accountants.  In March 2017 (five years after the launch of the KORUS FTA), foreign accounting firms will be eligible to purchase less than a 50 percent stake in a Korean accounting firm.  The FSC will approve U.S. accountants who have secured accounting licenses overseas to do business in Korea for five years.

For general consultants, opening an office in Korea requires a Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) approach.  For a corporation to open an office, a minimum investment of 100 million Won (~ USD 100,000) is required for a G8 visa, and for a consultant to practice in Korea, it would require 300 million Won (~ USD 300,000) for a G9 visa.  To learn more about how one can open offices in Korea, please visit the site http://www.investkorea.org/en/index.do.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



South Korea Trade Development and Promotion Trade Agreements