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Country of Origin Labeling

Overview

Purpose
  • Following trade liberalization, cases of illegal distribution such as cheap and foreign agricultural products being indiscriminately imported, disguised as domestic products, and sold are on the rise. In order to establish fair trade orders and protect both agricultural producers and consumers, the Agricultural Food Country of Origin Labeling(COOL) system was implemented in July 1st, 1991.
What is a "Country of Origin"?
  • A country of origin refers to the country or region where an agricultural product was produced in or harvested from. In terms of international trade, a country of origin generally refers to the country in possession of the political entity the product was produced in. Domestically, a country of origin refers to an area or a region. A country of origin is a completely different concept from a transit country, a country of consignment, or an exporting country, which do not take into consideration various processes such as manufacturing, production, and cultivation and simply denote the country a product was traded through
    • The quality of agricultural products, even in identical seeds or species, may differ depending on factors such as the cultivation region, weather, soil quality, cultivation methods, and time.
      〈Examples〉 Icheon rice, Naju pears, Cheongsong apples,(Chinese) ginseng,(American) beef
  • The quality of processed goods may differ depending on factors such as where the raw material was produced and processing methods. The COOL system is permitted by international law, and utilized by most countries including the United States of America, EU, and Japan
Progress
  • 1991 : COOL System for Imported Agricultural Products Established in Foreign Trade Act
  • 1993 : Establishment of Rules on the Production, Industry, Cultivation, and Quality Management of Agricultural and Marine Products
  • 1997 : Special Judicial Police Power Granted to Officials Regulating Country of Origin
  • 1999 : Establishment of Agricultural Product Quality Control Act, Establishment of Guidelines for Country of Origin Labeling of Agricultural Products
  • 2008 : Expansion and Enforcement of Country of Origin Labeling System for Restaurants
  • 2010 : Act on Origin Labeling of Agricultural and Fishery Products

Laws

Object Items and Target Restaurant

Agricultural Products and Processed Goods 651 Items
  • Domestic Agricultural Products : 222 Items
    • Fundamentally based on the application of items defined by Agricultural and Marine Product Standard Codes or「Livestock Products Sanitary Control Act」
    • Includes cases of treatment such as amputation, compression, peeling, drying, moisture absorption, heating, and mixing that have been performed so the original form can be seen with the naked eye
  • Imported Agricultural Products and Their Processed Goods or Delivered Agricultural Products and Their Processed Goods : 161 Items
    • Agricultural Products Among the Items Established by the Minister of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in Accordance with Article 33 Number 1 of the Foreign Trade Act(Types 1 ~ 24, Excluding Types 3 and 14)
  • Agricultural Processed Goods : 268 Items
    • Items Defined by Korean Food Standards Codex(176 Items)
    • Items Defined by Livestock Standards and Specifications(40 Items)
    • Items Defined by Health Functional Foods Standards and Specifications(41 Items)
Restaurant
  • 20 Items
    • Beef, Pork, Chicken, Duck, Mutton(including mountain goats)
    • Rice that is used to make cooked rice, rice porridge, and scorched rice(including rice processed products, and rice includes glutinous rice, brown rice and steamed rice)
    • Napa Cabbage(including Winter-grown Cabbage) and Red Pepper Ground that is used to make Napa Cabbage Kimchi(including processed products using Napa Cabbage Kimchi)
    • Beans(including processed bean products) that are used to make Tofu(not including processed tofu and tofu skin), Cold Soybean Soup, and Bean Curd
    • Halibut, Korean Rockfish, Red Seabream, Loach, Octopus, Eel, Pollock(Excluding Dried Products such as Hwangtae and Bukeo), Mackerel, Hairtail, cuttlefish, swimming crab, small yellow croaker(including related processed products)
  • Target Restaurant
    • General Restaurants : Cooking and selling of foods, alcohol consumption permitted alongside meals(general restaurants, buffets, wedding halls, funeral halls)
    • Rest Eateries : Cooking and selling of fast food or snack bar type foods, alcohol consumption forbidden(fast food restaurants, snack bars, etc)
    • Contracted Food Service : Preparing and providing of foods within a group meal facility in accordance with a contract
    • Group Meal Facility: A non-profit meal facility(school, business, dormitory, public institution, hospital, etc) continuously providing food for many and specified persons(regularly at least 50 people per session)

Labeling Standards

Domestic Agricultural Products
  • "Domestic" or "Homegrown" or the CityㆍProvince or CityㆍCountyㆍAutonomous Borough(Henceforth Referred to as "CityㆍCountyㆍBorough") Where the Agricultural Product was ProducedㆍHarvestedㆍRaised Example) Country of Origin: Domestic or Homegrown(Region Name Label: Chungcheongnam-do, Seosan-si)
  • Labeling is done in Korean. However, they can be written in Chinese or English if required
    • Standardized Goods, Good Agricultural Practices Products, Products with Traceability Management, and Products with Geographical Indication Resulting from Related Regulations are Considered as Having Country of Origin Labeling
Imported Agricultural Products and Imported Processed Products
  • Labels the country of origin while going through customs in accordance with the Foreign Trade Act
  • Labels the country of origin of delivered agricultural and marine products and their processed products during delivery accordance with the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act(Example : Bukhansan)
Processed Agricultural Products
  • Exclude water·food additives, alcohol and sugars from the ingredient list and mixed ratio
  • Label 3 top ingredients according to their mixed ratio, in order of highest first
    • when a single ingredient makes up over 98% of the mixed ratio, label that ingredient only
    • when two ingredients combined make up over 98% of the mixed ratio, label those two only, in order of highest first
  • If a domestic processed compound ingredient was used as a top 3 mixed ingredient, label two of the raw materials of the compound ingredient. If the name of an agriculture or marine product was used in a processed product’s name or used as part of a processed product’s name, additionally label the agricultural or marine product’s country of origin regardless of its mixed ratio
  • In the Kimchi category that use Red Pepper Ground as an ingredient, label country of origin for two ingredients with the highest mixed ratio and that of Red Pepper Ground
    • Kimchi products include Kimchi sauce mix, Napa Cabbage Kimchi, and other Kimchi products(white radish Kimchi, etc.) that are categorized as Kimchi as per the Korea Food Standards Codex

Labeling Methods

Agricultural Products and Processed Goods
Labeled on the packing material
  • Location : on a place that is easily identifiable
  • Letter Size
    • Packaging Surface Area at least 3000㎠ : At least 20 point
    • Packaging Surface Area at least 50㎠ : At least 12 point
    • Packaging Surface Area under 50㎠ : At least 8 point. However, if it is difficult to label with a letter size of at least 8 point, it is possible to label with the same letter size as other label items
      * If the label is printed on outer surface of the packing material or canned·bottled products then use the area of the label as the packaging surface area
  • Letter Color : Label clearly with a solid color that is different from the packaging's background color
  • The country of origin must be labeled on the [ingredients labelling section] in principle. However, labeling with stickers, labels from electronic scales, etc. are also possible
    • In the case of mesh packaging, labeling can be done with tags, etc
When it is difficult to label the country of origin on packaging materials
  • Sticker(Goods in Stock) : At least 3cm horizontally x 2cm vertically or at least 2.5 in diameter
  • Sign Label : At least 8cm horizontally x 5cm vertically x height of 5cm
  • Indicator Board :(Display Stand) At least 7cm horizontally × 5cm vertically,(Sale Location) At least 14cm horizontally x 10cm vertically
Restaurant
  • The country of origin must be labeled on all menus and boards(if only menus or boards are used, then this refers to all those menus or boards) so consumers can easily identify them. However, if country of origin signboards are attached in a place where consumers can easily see them according to the standards below, then there is no need to label the country of origin on menus and boards
    • The board title must be "Country of Origin Labeling Board"
    • The board's size must be horizontal x vertical(or vertical x horizontal) of at least 29cm x 42cm
    • The letter size must be at least 60 point(The letter size for the name of each menu item must be at least 30 points)
    • The letter color must be clearly identifiable from the background color
    • When attaching country of origin signboards, the board must be next to or below the biggest board in the restaurant(if all boards are of the same size, the one that most stands out to the consumers) so that it can be easily identified by consumers. In case of restaurants that do not use boards, the country of origin signboard must be placed in a location facing front from the main entrance so that customers can see it easily
  • Contracted Food Services and Group Meal Facilities
    • The country of origin must be labeled in the restaurant or meal area on monthly menu displays, menus, boards, signs, etc. so consumers(including users) can easily identify them
    • In cases of businesses and group meal facilities dealing with minors such as educationㆍchildcare facilities, labels(including electronic newsletters) must follow the guidelines in the above section A. Furthermore, the facilities must also create a weekly or monthly menu display with the countries of origin written on them and make them public through school newsletters or internet homepages
  • Businesses or group meal facilities installed/operated in funeral halls, wedding halls, hospitals, etc. may disregard the paragraphs 1 and 2 and instead label the countries of origin on signs or boards, etc. on places where consumers(including free diners) can easily see them
  • Notification Examples

Country of Origin Labeling Crackdown

Crackdown Procedures
  • Formation of country of origin labeling crackdown squad
  • Instructions·Crackdown on target businesses
  • Offense investigation and gathering samples to test country of origin
  • Follow-up investigation of distribution process and request country of origin examinations from testing laboratories
  • Demand confirmation from offenders
  • Investigate false labeling offenders, impose fines on non-label offenders
  • Forward investigation results on false labeling offenders to the prosecutor's office, disposition of imposition of fines
Designated Judicial Police Officer
  • Personnel : 1,100
Appointment and Use of Honorary Superintendents
  • Personnel: 14,795 members(9,571 members from consumers groups, 4,012 members from producer groups, 1,212 misc. members)
    • Recommended by consumer or producer groups, appointed by the director of the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service
  • Activities
    • Monitoring Illegal Distribution of Agricultural Products, Investigation on of Country of Origin Labeling Fulfillment Rates, Joint Crackdowns, Labeling Grain Foods
    • Promotion·Guidance of Agricultural Administration Including the Country of Origin Labeling System, Environment-Friendly Agricultural Product Certification System, Quality Certification System, and Safety Investigation
Enforcement Status
  • Number of crackdown target businesses : 569,000 agricultural food sales and production businesses, 817,000 restaurants

(as of 2018)

Enforcement status of crackdown for origin country labeling
Man-Days Investigated
Locations
Investigated
Locations
False Labeling Imposition of Fine
Total Criminal
Charges
Lawsuits Total Amount
(Thousand won)
52,835 280,228 3,917 2,453 2.444 9 1,464 380,741
Investigation of labeling fulfillment rates
  • ('94) 62.2% → ('96) 83.0% → ('97) 90.4% → ('12) 96.1% → ('13) 96.2% → ('14) 96.4% → ('15) 96.6% → ('16) 96.7% →('17) 95.4% →('18) 95.7%
    * Switched to civilian service investigation starting 2012

Punishments for Violations

Criminal Punishment
  • Up to 7 years of imprisonment or up to 100 million won in fines
    • Those who use false country of origin labels or use labels that may cause people to confuse countries of origin
    • Those who damage or change labels with the express intent of confusing the country of origin
    • Those who forge countries of origin and sell or those who mix agricultural products or their processed products with a country of origin label with different agricultural products or their processed goods to sell or store/display them with the intent of selling
    • Those who forge countries of origin within 5 years of their prior punishment : May receive at least 1 year, up to 10 years of imprisonment or at least 5 million won, up to 150 million won in fines
  • Up to 1 year of imprisonment or up to 10 million won in fines
    • Those who do not fulfil correction orders or official orders
Imposition of fines
  • At least 50 thousand won, up to 10 million won
    • Those who do not label countries of origin or violate labeling items and labeling methods
    • Those who do not fulfil their mandatory education penalty
    • Those who reject·disturb·avoid the investigation·collection·inspection of target agricultural products aimed at confirming the label status, label items, and label methods of countries of origin
  • Up to five times of the violation amount(Up to 300 million won) : Those who were charged on 2 or more occassions over a 2-year-period for using false country of origin labels
Mandatory education penalty
  • Those who were charged on 2 or more occassions for false labeling or non-labeling are subject to attend mandatory education sessions within 3 months upon being charged
Corrective orders against offenders
  • Fulfillment of label : Cases where labels of country of origin etc. are missing
  • Change of label : Cases where labels of country of origin etc. are false
  • Deletion and change of label : Cases where labels of country of origin etc. may cause confusion
Restaurant
Enforcement status of crackdown for origin country labeling
Offense Fine Amount
1st Violation 2nd Violation 3rd Violation
Failure to label only the country of origin of beef 1 million won 2 million won 3 million won
Failure to label only the type of beef 300,000 won 600,000 won 1 million won
Failure to label the country of origin of pork, chicken, duck, mutton, rice, napa cabbage kimchi, and bean 300,000 won 600,000 won 1 million won
Failure to label the country of origin of halibut, Korean rockfish, red seabream, loach, eel, octopus, pollock, mackerel, and hairtail, cuttlefish, swimming crab, small yellow croaker 300,000 won 600,000 won 1 million won
Failure to provide receipt 200,000 won 400,000 won 800,000 won

* Restaurant managers must provideㆍkeep livestock purchase receipts for 6 months after the purchase date.(Violation will result in a fine from 200,000 won to 800,000 won)

* If an offense occurs from a restaurant manager being tricked by the supplier, the manager can receive an exemption from the responsibility of the offense by handing over evidence with the product's country of origin label on it, such as purchase receipts and statements of accounts.)

  • Those who do not fulfil their mandatory education penalty will face fines of up to 5 million won
Announcement of offenders
  • Targets : False labelling offenders and offenders who have not labeled country of origin at least 2 times
  • Announcement Details : The type of business, the name and address of the business(if operating in a large-scale store then the name and address of said large-scale store is also to be included), the name of offending agricultural and marine products etc., details of the offense, the disposition authority, the disposition date and disposition details
  • Media : Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service, Korea Consumer Agency Homepage, Portal Sites, etc

Reporting Illegal Distributions and Reward

Reporting Method
  • Phone : (Anywhere in the country at) 1588-8112
  • Internet : www.agrin.go.kr
  • Organizations : National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service, Metropolitan Government, Metropolitan Cities, Provinces and Cities·Counties, etc
  • Confidentiality : Competent authorities, investigation agencies, and the president of agricultural and marine food distribution businesses must guarantee absolute secrecy to ensure the personal protection of those who have reported or charged cases of offenses
Reward
  • Targets : Those who report or charge agricultural product country of origin labeling offenses to competent authorities or investigation agencies
  • When judgement·dispositions·etc. are determined as shown below, then the competent authorities, investigation agencies, or reward targets who reported or charged the case can apply for the bounty reward
    • When punishments of imprisonment or fines have been determined
    • When suspensions of indictment have been disposed
    • When the fine has been paid or the deadline to raise objections according to Article 38 Number 3 of the Law has passed
    • When a fine judgement and fine disposition have been determined on an objection case
  • Reward Amount : 50,000 ~ 2,000,000 won per case, depending on investigation results
  • Procedure : Once a Agricultural Product Country of Origin Labelling Illegal Distribution Report Bounty Application Form has been received, the Director of the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service must confirm the bounty output and the proper status of the required documents, decide the bounty amount, and deposit the bounty into the account of the recipient