South Korea - Country Commercial Guide
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As the biggest retail channel in Korea, e-commerce is a vital component of the overall consumer market.  

Characteristics of e-commerce in Korea include:

·        Domestic online purchases reached $180.4 billion in 2022, up from $168.5 billion in 2021. The high penetration of smartphones is the main factor driving market growth. While purchases on PCs decreased from $47.8 billion in 2021 to $46.1 billion in 2022, purchases on mobile phones increased from $134 billion in 2021 to $134.3 billion in 2022.

·        The most popular products sourced from domestic online retailers in 2022 are home appliances & electronics (14.6%), food & beverage (13.6%), food services (12.6%), clothing (9.0%), household items (8.3%), cosmetics (5.0%), and travel & transportation services (8.8%).

·        Online purchases from foreign retailers have also rapidly increased because Koreans find lower prices on overseas e-commerce platforms even after adding-in international shipping fees and import duties. Cross-border e-commerce reached $4.7 billion in 2022.

·        Under the KORUS FTA, express courier service mailed goods under $200 are duty-free when sourced from the U.S., and ‘made in the USA’ items under $1,000 are exempt from KORUS FTA documentation.

·        Multi-brand online retailers such as and eBay are the most frequently used foreign online shopping sites visited by Koreans.

·        According to Korea Customs Agency, the most popular foreign-sourced products from online retailers by Koreans in 2022 were health supplements (16%), electronics (13%), apparel (12%), food (10%), and footwear (6%).

·        Following the implementation of Korea’s privacy for personal data in 2014, Korea Customs continues to push importers of record to clear shipments with a Customs Clearance Indigenous Code (CCIC), a Korea Customs-issued ID number, rather than a national ID number.

·        U.S.-based e-commerce companies should review the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) and ministerial data privacy/spam regulations, which may restrict e-commerce for firms managing user data on international servers. The most recent PIPA was amended in January 2020.

In March 2022, CS Korea completed an International Market Insight (IMI) report describing how Koreans purchase via foreign online retailers.

Internet Penetration                                                                                                                

According to a 2023 Ministry of Science and ICT report, 99.96 percent of Korean households had access to the Internet in 2022. A 2022 study by Korea Communications Commission noted that Korea’s smartphone user population reached 93.4 percent, and almost 100 percent of Koreans aged between 10 and 49 had smartphones in 2022.  The rates dropped to 93.8 percent and 59.2 percent for those in their 60s and 70s, respectively.

Current Market Trends                                                                                            

The growth of the Korean retail sector is led by e-commerce. While e-commerce is proliferating, traditional retail channels are suffering. Consumers go to traditional brick-and-mortar stores for window shopping but purchase goods online to find the best deals. To differentiate their services, retailers are competing to provide fast delivery services. As same-day or quick delivery services are becoming more common, some manufacturers sell only through e-commerce.

Domestic E-commerce (B2C)                                                                                  

Domestic e-commerce sales have been increasing for the past few years, reaching $180.4 billion in 2022, up from $168.5 billion in 2021. Beginning in 2016, online purchases surpassed hypermarket sales, making e-commerce the biggest retail channel in Korea. Popular e-commerce sites include Auction, G-market, 11st, Coupang, and Naver Store. Naver was ranked the top e-commerce site in 2022 (both mobile and PC users).

Cross Border E-commerce                                                                                                      

Online purchases from foreign e-commerce reached $4.7 billion in 2022, up from $4.5 billion in 2021, with 33.6 percent of purchases originating from the United States. The United States was ranked number two after China in 2022. It was the first time the United States didn’t place first in the rankings. Due to unfavorable exchange rates throughout 2022, Koreans purchased less from the United States and instead purchased more from China and Japan.  Over the years, Korean consumers have been diversifying their shopping habits by buying more varieties of products from more than 30 countries.

Business to Business (B2B) E-commerce                                                                                                            

Korean B2B e-commerce market data is unavailable; however, due to the explosive expansion of business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce and tough competition among e-commerce players, B2C e-commerce retailers have been rapidly expanding into B2B consumable sales to small and medium size companies.  Interpark acquired a B2B e-commerce company called “I Market Korea” in 2011, and other major B2C e-commerce companies followed suit by establishing similarB2B e-commerce business teams. G-market was the first to launch a B2B shopping site called “Biz on” in 2012. Auction also has B2B sites called “Biz Club” for food ingredients and “Biz Plus” for other consumables, and We Make Price launched its B2B platform, “We Make Price Bizmall” in 2016. In 2021, GS Retail and Coupang opened their B2B e-commerce platforms. With 5.4 million business owners and 3.5 million small and medium-sized companies in Korea, the B2B e-commerce market is very competitive.

E-commerce Services                                                                                

In 2022, food delivery services were the most popular services purchased through Korean e-commerce platforms, representing 12.6 percent of the total e-commerce sales. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, however, food delivery services occupied only 2.2 percent of the total e-commerce sales, while travel and transportation services were the most popular items occupying 12.9 percent. Travel and transportation services declined between 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, but their market share has recovered to 8.8 percent in 2022, as traveling resumed.

E-commerce Intellectual Property Rights                                                            

It is illegal to sell counterfeited products on e-commerce sites and to bring counterfeit goods into Korea via cross-border e-commerce. Korea Customs Service prohibits any counterfeited goods from being brought into the country.

Business to Government (B2G) E-commerce                                                                                                    

For B2G e-commerce, Korea On-line E-procurement System (KONEPS) is the only channel in Korea. As of August 2022, 65,548 public organizations and 702,198 companies were registered on this system. The total transaction amount of KONEPS in 2022 was recorded at $105 billion. The site dealt with more than 61.7 percent of Korea’s public procurement market, which was about $171 billion in 2022. KONEPS is recognized by the UN and OECD for its high standards.

Online Payment                                                                                                        

With the continuous growth of online shopping, electronic payment services via PC and mobile are increasing.  For Payment Gateway (PG) service, the average number of usages a day exceeded 23 million in 2022, and the average daily payments reached $920 million in 2022, up from $790 million in 2021.  According to a 2023 study by Hana Bank, the digital payment market is dominated by big tech companies such as Kakao, Naver, etc. They occupy 50 percent of the market share while traditional financial service companies occupy 26 percent of the market, and mobile phone companies, including Samsung and LG, occupy 24 percent of the market.

Mobile E-commerce                                                                                                                

Mobile e-commerce is the primary driver of the explosive e-commerce growth. While online shopping grew by 10.4 percent in 2022, mobile e-commerce increased by 13.4 percent. Purchases from mobile platforms make up 74.4 percent of the total e-commerce market value.

Digital Marketing

According to the Ministry of Science and ICT in 2022, the digital advertising market in 2022 was estimated to be $5.8 billion, down from $7.0 billion in 2021, but the market size has not decreased and is due to the Won’s depreciation in 2022.  The digital advertisement has been leading the Korean advertising market ever since the market value exceeded the size of the TV ads market. It occupies 51 percent of the total advertising market and is expected to grow continuously. Display ads (51.9%) surpassed search ads (48.1%) in 2021 due to the increased traffic to YouTube and other video streaming services in Korea. More companies took advantage of advertising their products and services through video platforms.

Social Media                                                                                                                              

According to a survey by Korea Information Society Development Institute, 89.6 percent of survey respondents used social media at least once a month in 2022. 36.2 percent responded that they used social media every day in 2022, up from 32.0 percent in 2021.  The survey further noted that the most popularly used social media by Koreans in 2022 were Instagram (61.1%), Facebook (45.6%), Band (28.6%), and Kakao Story (26.3%). Although not included in this survey, the most popular social media among Koreans is YouTube. According to a 2022 survey by Mobile Index, 41.8 million Koreans out of 51.6 million people of the total population in Korea used YouTube in 2022. On average, Koreans spent 32.9 hours on YouTube in September 2022.

Major Buying Holidays                                                                                            

Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day- Winter), Children’s Day (May 5), Parents’ Day (May 8), Chu-seok (Fall - the 15th day of the 8th lunar month), and Christmas are major buying holidays in Korea. When purchasing from foreign online shopping sites, Koreans also follow foreign countries’ buying holidays, such as China’s Singles’ Day (November 11- Guanggun Jie) and Black Friday in the U.S. to get the best deals.


Of the $4.7 billion spent by Korean consumers at overseas e-Commerce platforms in 2022, $1.8 billion was purchased from the United States. According to the Korea Customs Service, dietary supplements, apparel, and food products are the most popular from the U.S., while cosmetics and electronics are sourced more from the E.U. and China than the U.S.                                              Trade Shows      

CS Korea was not able to identify any trade shows focusing on electronic commerce. CS Korea does have an extensive list of Korean retail trade shows, which can be obtained upon request. However, most trade shows tend to be B2C instead of B2B.

Key Contacts

Local Contact

Ms. Jinjoo Lee
Commercial Specialist
Commercial Service Korea
U.S. Embassy Seoul
188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu
Seoul 03141, Korea
Tel: 82-2-397-4324