For many newcomers to Korea, the post office can be a confusing place to figure out. In particular, sending items overseas can be a significant challenge. Whether you’re sending souvenirs back to friends and family, or you’re sending a box of clothes to lighten your suitcase, here’s a brief guide for sending packages in Korea. If you are sending your package internationally, you will have to go to a post office, but if you are sending it domestically, you can choose to go to a post office or to a convenience store.
At the post office
If you are sending your package domestically or internationally, going to the post office may be the best option. One advantage of sending packages at the post office is that you can buy the box there. This allows you to bring the items you want to send to the post office, pack them there are send them straight away. They will always have lots of tape, scissors and bubble wrap that you can use as well. Keep in mind that you have to use the official boxes from the post office, not just any box that you want.
All post offices will be laid out differently, but they will have an area where you can buy boxes. Often, they will also have a model showing the sizes of each box. Choose the size that you want and pay for it first, then you can pack your items. Use plenty of tape across the flaps to make sure that it doesn’t open.
Then, you will have to choose the invoice paper that you want. If you are sending it domestically, you can use the 우체국택배 form. If you are sending your package internationally, you choose either EMS or surface mail. EMS is faster and more expensive while surface mail is slower and cheaper. If you have the choice, I would say that EMS is worth choosing – your package will arrive much faster and in better condition than by surface mail. Since there are lots of forms to choose, I would recommend asking at the counter which form you should use. For some countries, there is only one form you can use, so it’s best to check with the attendant.
Once you have your form, you can fill out the relevant information. You have to include a description of the contents, so do that as best as you can, but don’t be too worried about doing it perfectly. When you’re finished, go to the counter and take a waiting number. Once it’s your turn, bring your package and your form to the attendant and they will enter your information digitally and prepare your package. They will attach your form to the package, and after you pay the shipping fee, you’re all done! They will give you a tracking number so you can see when your package has arrived.
At a convenience store
If you are sending your package domestically, you don’t have to go to the trouble of finding a post office - If you go to a GS25 or CU, you might see a set of scales for weighing packages. If so, you can send your package from this store. These scales will let you weigh your package and print out a label by yourself, and there will usually be some kind of basket where you can leave your package to be picked up. Since the convenience stores do not sell boxes, and do not have tape and scissors for you to use, you will have to prepare your box before going there.
You can optionally make an account to streamline the process, but this is not necessary. You can press 비회원 택배접수 if you don’t have an account, or 회원 택배접수 if you do. Place your package on the scale and it will automatically weigh it. After that, simply enter the destination address, return address, names and phone numbers. If the weight and the information seem correct to you, you can print out the label. Usually, the printer will print 2 labels – one label is for sticking on the package, and the other label is what you bring to the cashier to pay. Once you have paid, you can leave your package in the available basket, or the cashier might place it behind the counter if it is too large or the basket is full. In any case, you can use the tracking number from the receipt to see when your package arrives.
A note during Coronavirus
Before the pandemic, it seems like customs did not check outgoing boxes too thoroughly, however with the increased security due to coronavirus, they are now checking boxes more carefully. In addition, some counties have made their import restrictions tighter to reduce the spread of the virus. If customs find prohibited items in your box, they may call you and ask if you want to have the whole box sent back to you, or if they can throw away the restricted item and send the rest. The choice is up to you, and this will depend on how urgent your package is. You can avoid these problems by asking the attendant before you send your package about any items you are unsure about. Even mundane items (especially food and any kinds of chemicals) may be restricted by some countries.
Written by: Ewan Smith