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U.S.-Korea Equivalency Agreement

As of July 1, 2014, organic products certified in Korea or in the U.S. may be sold as organic in either country. Under this pact, Korea recognizes USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) as equivalent to Korea’s organic oversight program. The understanding allows processed organic products certified in Korea or in the United States to be sold as organic in either country.

OTA and the U.S. organic industry have worked hard to help make this happen. It’s a win for the organic sectors and for the consumers of both nations. Read OTA’s press release here.


Why this agreement matters

  • Organic equivalence between the U.S. and Korea reopens this important Asian consumer market for organic processed food products for U.S. organic exporters.
  • This historic partnership will create jobs and opportunity for the U.S. organic food and farming sector.
  • This agreement reduces duplicative fees and burdensome paperwork while upholding the highest standards of organic oversight.
  • Exports are critical for farmers and processors, and good for the U.S. economy

Resources

The United States and Korea are committed to ensuring that all traded organic processed products meet the terms of the arrangement, retaining their organic integrity from farm to market.

For further details on this agreement, please visit the USDA NOP website.


Background and Clarifications

As of July 1, 2014, under the arrangement, the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) recognizes USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) as equivalent to the Korean Environment-friendly Regulations and Korean Organic Program regarding processed products (under applicable MAFRA regulations for processed products) and allows processed products produced and certified as meeting USDA’s NOP standards to be marketed as “organic” in Korea. Likewise, the United States allows Korean processed products produced and certified under the Korea Organic Program to be marketed as “organic” in the United States.

Conformity Assessments

Through a series of meetings and comprehensive on-site audits of both programs, both parties were able to ensure that while some of national program rules and approaches are not identical, they achieve an equivalent level of compliance, meet same objectives and maintain the high quality standards important to the integrity of both programs.

Timelines

June 30, 2014 – Agreements signed following an exchange of letters
July 1, 2014 -- Effective date that trade may begin under the arrangement published following the exchange of letters
 
The agreement will be ongoing and subject to annual review by the signators.
 

Critical Variances

The arrangement applies ONLY to processed products as defined by the Korean Food Code;

(Korean Food Code 1.2.29)

"Processed food" refers to a food manufactured, processed, and packaged by adding food or food additives to food raw materials (agricultural, forestry, livestock, or marine products), transforming food raw materials (such as grinding or cutting) till their original forms cannot be recognized, or mixing such transformed ones or adding food or food additives to such mixture. However, where, without the use of food additives or other materials, the agricultural, forestry, livestock, or marine products are simply cut, peeled, salted, ripened, or heated (except the cases where heating is performed for sterilization or heating causes significant changes to those products) till their original forms can be recognized or where sanitary risks from treatment processes are not expected and food raw materials are simply treated so as to allow organoleptic identification of food quality, such food products are excluded from the definition of the processed food.”

In order to access each other’s markets with organic label claims, U.S. and Korean organic producers and processors will be required to attest that each shipment meets the terms of the arrangement. Additionally, producers must attest that:

  • no antibiotics were administered to animals;
  • the antibiotics tetracycline and streptomycin were not used to control fire blight in apples and pears.
  • that GMOs were not used in the production of organic processed products.

Exclusions

The agreement does NOT provide for equivalency for trade in raw and unprocessed products in accordance with the Korean Food Code. There are no provisions in the agreement covering organic aquaculture.

Required Transaction Documents include copies of:

  • Organic certificate
  • Transaction/Export Certificate from the Certification Body
  • Organic Ingredient List from the manufacturer
  • NAQS Import Notification of Organic Processed Food

Geographic Scope of this Agreement

Geographic scope of the U.S.– Korea Organic Trade Arrangement is comparable to the scope of the U.S.–E.U. and U.S./Japan Trade Arrangements.

  • Processed products that have been grown, processed, or packaged (where final processing occurred) in Korea or the U.S. and certified by an accredited certifying agency (ACA) operating within their respective country/region borders can be shipped directly to Korea.
  • Processed product certified to either standard that has NOT been grown, processed, packaged in the United States or Korea cannot be shipped directly to Korea/U.S.
  • Processed product NOT grown, processed or packaged in Korea that is destined for the United States must be certified to the USDA-NOP standard by a USDA-accredited certifier.
  • Processed product NOT grown, processed or packaged in the United States to be shipped directly to Korea must be certified to the Korean organic standard or certified by a Certification Body recognized by Korea as an equivalent Certification Body/Foreign Certification Agent.

Mutual Accreditation 

Korea and U.S. mutually recognize each other’s Accredited Certification Agents (ACA) and Registered Certification Bodies (RCB) as accredited certification agents.

Seal Use

Use of the USDA Organic seal and/or the MAFRA Organic Logo is allowed and optional, provided that products meet the USDA/Korean labeling requirements.

Certifier Mark

Korea & the U.S. require that the Accredited Certifier must be identified on the label.

Organic Labeling in Korea 

General Labeling Requirements: Product must still meet Korean and U.S. general labeling requirements, which are similar to one another but may have subtle differences, just as product going to Canada must have dual language (English and French) labeling “Organic”.

Processed products certified by USDA-NOP accredited certifier may access the Korean market. All USDA certified processed products must comply with the USDA organic regulations

  • Applies only to processed products containing 95 percent and above organic ingredients.
  • These products may be labeled with the word “organic” in English or Korean.
  • May use the USDA Organic seal and the Korean logo.

Additional Korean labeling requirements

  • Applies only to processed products containing 95 percent and above organic ingredients.
  • Products destined for Korea must include the following on the label:
  • Manufactured by XXXX
  • Packaged in: USA
  • Certified by XXXX
  • Certificate number XXXXX
  • Telephone number of the Seller or Importer XX XXX XXX XXXX

Contact

OTA Members can direct questions about this agreement to:

Monique Marez
Director, International Trade
(202) 403-8515
Bob Anderson
Senior International Trade Advisor
(814) 571-1063

 

Visit the National Organic Program
 website for more information


The Organic Trade Association does not discriminate on the basis of age, disability, national origin or ancestry, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, political affiliation or military status. Persons with disabilities who require alternate means for communication of program information can contact us at info@ota.com.

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