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The Ultimate Guide To Using Korean Forwarding Service

Hi, fans of Korean goodies!

There’s a lot of great merch on global shops of Weverse, BT21, and ecommerce sites. But they don’t always ship outside of Korea.



Fortunately, we can still get these items without paying crazy reseller prices using something called package forwarding service.




Use package forwarding service to get what you want from Korea

Package forwarding service purchase the desired good in Korea and ships the package abroad for you. There are many Korean sites that provide such forwarding service, such as Korgou, KoreanBuddy, MyKoreanBox, and Shippin. How does it work and which one to use?

In this guide we will cover the following:

  1. When (not) to use a package forwarder

  2. How package forwarding works

  3. How much it costs

  4. How to choose a forwarder

When (not) to use a package forwarder

You should not use package forwarding service if there is a licensed retailer that ships abroad.

An authorized or licensed retailer ("retailer" from here on) signs a contract with original brands to buy goods in bulk at lower prices. Since they buy cheap and have the seal of approval from manufacturers (warranty, trademark), licensed retailers can sell you at lower prices with more reliability.

Don't use forwarders if there is a well-known authorized retailer.


For example, StyleKorean is an authorized international retailer of many Korean beauty brands. This listing of a COSRX Gel Cleanser makes it clear that all of their products are "sourced directly from official brands." As a result, StyleKorean's product prices are quite reasonable. Moreover, thanks to their large scale, their shipping cost is one of the lowest.



StyleKorean is an example of a licensed retailer that ships abroad.


Unfortunately, there aren't many official retailers that ship worldwide. Some do, but are limited in their coverage or capacity. How can you know it's a licensed retailer? They usually mention it in their product description page. Examples of licensed retailers include:

  • WeVerse

  • StyleKorean (Korean cosmetics)

  • AmorePacific

Use package forwarders

  • If your item is not available on official retailers

  • If you want to get a better price or more customized service than resellers

Merchants on Gmarket Global, Ebay, Shopee, Amazon, or an independent shop are most likely non-licensed resellers.


Gmarket Global's Notice statement. Most of items on platforms are listed by resellers.


Resellers purchase products from the market, rather than directly from manufacturers. Marketplace or independent merchants as mentioned above usually do not enjoy a big scale or license advantage. Plus, they ask higher prices due to selling fees they have to pay to platforms. As items themselves are mostly authentic, quality should not be an issue.



Resellers pay commission fees. Forwarders charge a smaller handling fee instead.


Package forwarders can often get you better prices than resellers, partially because they don’t have expensive selling fees. Forwarders acquire goods locally and then ship internationally to you. Through them, you can get anything in Korea that can be shipped abroad. Here are some pros and cons of package forwarding service:


Pros and cons of package forwarding


Pros:

  • Freedom of choice. You can get any Korean merchandise that can be shipped abroad.

  • Slightly cheaper than resellers (for a single item)

  • Significantly cheaper if you bundle multiple items

  • Transparency. While resellers can charge you a price without revealing how much the item actually cost, with forwarding service, you know exactly how much the good cost, shipping cost, and add other surchages

Cons:

  • More expensive than licensed retailers

  • Complicated. Involves more work than buying from resellers, as custom orders are manually handled

  • Takes longer than retailers or resellers as they do not keep an inventory of items and purchase on demand.

How package forwarding works

There are two approaches to package forwarding: purchase-it-yourself and assisted purchase.

Purchase-it-yourself forwarding is the more manual method:

  1. Request your package forwarder for a local Korean address.

  2. Shop on Korean sites using the provided Korean address.

  3. Your forwarder receives the package and notifies you.

  4. Request your forwarder to ship out the package.

  5. Receive your package at home.



Steps in purchase-it-yourself forwarding | Source: USGoBuy


Purchasing it yourself on a Korean site can often be overwhelming. You may need to use Google Translate to navigate Korean ecommerce sites. As you place your order, you might get confused when filling out even little things like phone numbers and addresses. Last but not least, you may get stuck in the final payment page with credit card restrictions as Korean barrier to digital transactions is quite high.

That’s why many forwarders also offer “assisted purchase” service. From shopper's perspective, assisted-purchase forwarding is easier and faster than purchase-it-yourself:

  1. Tell your package forwarder about the specific item you are after, usually the item’s url.

  2. Your forwarder orders the item for you, shows you its photo to confirm, and ships it out to you.

  3. Receive your package at home.


Steps in assisted purchase forwarding | Source: UsOUTFIT


With assisted purchase, you save many steps such as: 1) asking for a Korean address, 2) browsing sites in Korean for the best deal, 3) ordering and paying in an alien environment, and 4) checking whether it arrived at your Korean address; and 5) asking the forwarder to ship it abroad.

In both approaches, most forwarders will offer additional services such as: sending you photos of incoming packages; consolidating and repacking multiple packages, which can save you some shipping cost.



About package consolidation | Source: Planet Express


How much it costs

Though more affordable than resellers, international forwarding can seem quite expensive. It feels confusing because pricing policies differ by forwarders. To be a more discerning consumer, let’s take a look at components of a forwarding fee.

  • International shipping: This is the biggest cost driver. Moving packages from Korea with global carriers (DHL, Fedex, USPS, or Korea Post) costs at least $20 per 0.5kg (1lb). The more cost efficient forwarder will charge you a less shipping fee, as they contract with carriers for a much lower, preferred rate.

  • Handling Service (receipt, storage, photo, consolidation, repacking): Many package forwarders will charge you fees for issuing you a local Korean address you can ship to. There may be additional fees for asking the forwarder to store, check (photo), combine, and repack your packages. Repacking is important because it can lower shipping cost significantly.

  • Assisted Purchase: Forwarders charge an additional fee for assisted purchase. Assistance is not just about getting around Korean order system. It often involves a lot of research: browsing through many shops to make sure you get the best price and option.

  • Transaction fee (Paypal and foreign exchange): Korean currency is the Korean won or KRW. There will be foreign exchange fees for converting the amount to and from currencies like the US dollar. In addition, global payment services like Paypal charge 4-5% transaction fees.

  • Custom duties and taxes: You are essentially importing goods from Korea. So your government may ask you to pay import duties and value-added taxes (VAT). US residents usually get away with them because it’s duty-free up to $800 in goods. But other residents may not be so lucky.


Rough breakdown of a forwarding fee


Volumetric weight. In addition, when it comes to international shipping, You must understand this terminology. Carriers penalize bulky but fluffy (big but light) packages by charging you more. To do that, carriers charge you the greater between the package's ordinary weight and volumetric weight.



How to calculate volumetric weight | Source: Shippn


For example, let’s say we were getting the MOTS (Map of the Soul) special edition of the BTS official lightstick, which was released on Weverse in July 2020 and sold out very fast. Weverse shipped to the United States, but did not ship to many other countries. Such situation is a perfect reason to use a forwarder.



Example: Forwarding a BTS Lightstick MOTS edition


Assuming an exchange rate of 1,000 KRW per 1 USD, on Weverse the lightstock sold for 35,000 won or $35. Some resellers charged the international audience as much as $150 ex taxes (excluding import taxes which vary by countries). However, with a forwarder, you could have got it for around $75 ex taxes. Other forwarders could have charged a higher fee with additional services like photo scan or assisted purchase, in which case it could have cost around $85.



Price comparison across In-Korea Retailers, Resellers, and Forwarders


How to choose a forwarder

There are many Korean package forwarders. You want to choose a reliable forwarder with a long track record who responds promptly to your inquiries.

When it comes to fees, forwarders' pricing policies are vary widely. You should pick the forwarder that best suits your needs.


Fee comparison: The table below shows basic information about Korean forwarders’ fees as of November 30, 2020, assuming exchange rate of 1,000 KRW/USD. *For more detailed information including shipping fees, please visit their respective websites. *




Assisted Purchase fee is often calculated as % of item price. Ex) With a rate of 10%, $100 merchandise's Assisted Purchase fee would be $10Return charge occurs when clients cancel or refund purchases before being forwarded.


Do you have the time and resources to purchase-it-yourself with a Korean address and get it forwarded to you? Then, services provided by KR2ME or Delivered may be suitable for you because they provide free addresses with excellent shipping service.

In case of assisted-purchse, fees can vary widely depending on item price, size and weight, and number of items. It would be a good idea to calculate and anticipate what the fee might come out to be.


Conclusion

Hope you have a better idea about how Korean package forwarding works. Now you know when to or when not to use a forwarding service, fees involved in it, and how to choose a forwarder.

So what are you going to get from Korea? Please let us know. We'd love to help.




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