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Bringing Prescription Drugs and Narcotics into Korea

Drugs brought into the Republic of Korea are subject to the regulations established by the Korean Food and Drug Administration and the Korean Customs Service, for more information please visit the KFDA website.  The procedures outlined below for importing/shipping medications or hand-carrying medications into the Republic of Korea are subject to change without notice.  We recommend that travelers plan in advance and confirm the procedures with the relevant Korean authorities before bringing any drugs into the Republic of Korea.

To carry narcotics into the Republic of Korea:

Before traveling, travelers must fax a written application to the Narcotics Control Division, Korean Food and Drug Administration per the instructions in “KFDA med permit procedures.”  The application must include:

  • a copy of the biographical page of your passport, showing your name, country, and passport number
  • a medical report and doctor’s prescription, indicating the name of the disease and narcotics prescribed
  • an application letter, stating your name, passport number, name and quantity of narcotics (in mg units) that you plan to bring in, your reasons for carrying it, and contact information including fax number or email address where you will receive the permit letter

A traveler’s application will be reviewed by the relevant Korean authorities, and if permission is granted, a permit letter will be sent to the fax number or email address provided in the application.  This permit letter will allow a traveler to bring those medications with them into the Republic of Korea.  If applicants do not receive a bring-in permit, they may wish to consult with their U.S. doctor for substitute medicines, or sources of local equivalent medicines in Korea. Amphetamine-based medications and other narcotics are routinely confiscated at the Korean port of entry, unless accompanied by a bring-in permit as described above.

For medicines that do not contain narcotics or amphetamines, in general (but with no guarantee due to ever changing policies) a three-month supply of medicines valued at less than $2,000 will be allowed to be brought into the Republic of Korea if they are for personal use and accompanied by a proper prescription from your doctor, a doctor’s letter stating the medical diagnosis, and a general statement from your doctor. The Korean Customs Service at Incheon Airport has authority over which medications will be allowed to be carried into the country.  Travelers may wish to consult with their U.S. doctor regarding substitute medicines, or sources of local equivalent medicines in Korea.

Please direct specific inquiries to:

Narcotics Policy Division

Pharmaceutical Safety Bureau

MFDS [Ministry of Food and Drug Safety]

Tel. +82 43 719 2801~16

Fax. +82 43 719 2800


Social Security Numbers Required on Passport Applications

As of October 1, 2016, all U.S. citizens applying for a passport will be required to include their Social Security number on their application form. U.S. citizens who were never issued a Social Security number can apply for one along with the passport application or sign a sworn statement declaring that they have never applied for a number. To submit a first-time Social Security application, you will need to have one form of valid U.S. government-issued identification. You can find the SS-5 application and instructions at this link. If you have a number but do not remember it, contact the Social Security Administration ( BEFORE submitting your passport application. This new policy applies to routine passport services and will not prevent emergency travel to the United States.

NOTE: Applicants without an SSN will no longer be able to mail or courier their DS-82 (adult renewals) and DS-5504 (e.g. limited passport replacement) forms to the Embassy. Please make an appointment to be interviewed in person.

“One Cellphone Only” Policy for Access to American Citizen Services

Applicants visiting the Embassy will be allowed to check in only one cell phone and one set of electronic car keys before entering the building.  No other devices will be permitted, and the Embassy has no capacity to store them. Please leave these items at home or make arrangements for their storage before arriving for your appointment.  For more information, please click here.

When a Valid Passport Isn’t Really Valid websiteAll too often, Embassy Seoul receives calls from anxious American citizens who are stuck at Incheon International Airport.  The stories are similar and often go something like this: “John” is traveling from Seoul to Thailand with non-refundable tickets for a dream vacation, but the airline denied him boarding. “Mary” is traveling from Los Angeles to Manila with a layover in Seoul, but was prevented from boarding her continuing flight to the Philippines. Both passengers are carrying valid U.S. passports. So what’s the problem?  Their passports are expiring too soon. Or, their passport visa pages are too full.

These visitors learned the hard way that many countries in Asia and around the world will not permit travelers to enter unless their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their intended departure.  These countries include — but are not limited to — Thailand, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia.  These same countries also require visitors to have at least one blank visa page in their passport.  A handful of countries go a step further:  China, Singapore and Indonesia (specifically Bali) require visitors to have at least two remaining blank visa pages in their passport.

Before packing your sunscreen and swimsuit, it’s important to carefully check your passport, especially the expiration date.  The next step is to check the entry requirements for the country you are visiting.  Begin by visiting Travel.State.Gov (  Next, type in the name of the country you are visiting in the “Learn about your destination” box. The first item you’ll see are any Travel Alerts or Travel Warnings pertaining to that country. Below under “Quick Facts” is a summary of entry and exit requirements. In addition to passport validity and visa page requirements, you’ll also learn whether your destination country requires a visa or vaccinations.

Below the “Quick Facts” box, take a few minutes to read through the Country Specific Information (CSI), which includes important information about your destination country such as U.S. Embassy and Consulates contact information, security & safety concerns, local laws, LGBT travel and more.

Don’t let your travel plans get delayed by poor planning. If you discover your passport is expiring soon, visit the Embassy Seoul website ( for information on renewing your passport.  We recommend U.S. citizens renew their passport no later than 7 months before the expiration date. We can normally renew your passport in 2-3 weeks, so your valid passport won’t become invalid.


SSN_BENEFITSIf you are an U.S. citizen residing in Korea, you may apply for a social security card or replacement card at the Embassy, and we will forward your application to the Social Security Administration’s regional office in Manila.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul is NOT a Social Security claims-processing post.  For social security claims and other questions, please contact:

Social Security Administration
1201 Roxas Boulevard
Ermita, 0930 Manila

Phone Number: (63)(2)301-2000
Fax Number: (63)(2)708-9723/9714

For more details about your Social Security benefits, please refer to the following website:


illegal drugsA majority of U.S. citizens serving sentences in Korean prisons are doing so for possession of illegal drugs.  The Embassy cannot get involved in Korean police investigations, court prosecutions, or provide legal assistance.  People caught by the Korean police for illegal drug possession will be prosecuted to the full extent of Korean law and serve lengthy terms in Korean prison.

I’VE BEEN ARRESTED! I need a lawyer now!

ARRESTEDIn most cases, Korean law enforcement officials promptly notify the Embassy about the arrest or detention of any U.S. citizen.  The American Citizen Services section makes every effort to make an initial visit to the detainee soon after the arrest, with follow up visits periodically.  However, the U.S. Embassy cannot assist prisoners with legal representation.  Our job is to ensure that the arrested U.S. citizen is being treated fairly under local laws, understands the charges, has access to legal counsel, and has any special or emergency needs met to the extent possible.  The Embassy can also keep a detainee’s relatives or friends informed of the situation if that is the person’s wish.

Here is a list of local attorneys who speak English and may be able help you with your legal problem: