How to Ship Things Home by Boat in Korea (Surface Mail)

Hello everyone~

So today’s post is going to be another guide with tips. As you all know, I’m returning to the USA for good in about a month or two, so today I thought I’d share my experiences on how you can use the Korean Post Office to mail things back home.

I used the Post Office to ship 2 boxes so far, filled with all my winter clothing and the clothing I’m no longer wearing. While this guide will focus on instructions/tips on how to ship your things home, this should also be helpful for anyone living in Korea that needs to send things home at any time for any reason!

Korean Post Office Shipping Methods

You have a couple of options for shipping things home. As I know, there’s three options. From fastest/most expensive to the slowest/ cheapest: EMS, Airmail, and Surface Mail (by boat/ship).

Surface mail is the CHEAPEST option, but takes the longest, anywhere from 1 to 3 months.
Airmail takes 1-2 weeks, and EMS takes 3-4 days. I’ve used all 3 methods, and I found that there’s only about a 15,000~20,000 won difference between EMS and Airmail.

I believe you can get all methods insured if you pay more.

For this post, I’m going to be focusing on surface mail, as it’s the most economical option for shipping a large quantity of items home.

Important Tips for Packing Your Boxes

Tip 1: If you’re sending a lot of clothing, I strongly recommend you buy vacuum bags/space saver bags. The boxes get really beat up by boat, and can explode and get wet. My Post Office refused to let me ship my stuff without packing my clothing into bags. These bags will also allow you to fit more into your box! More bang for your buck!!!

You can pick these up at your local Daiso, Emart, Homeplus, or Lotte Mart. You can also buy them on the internet…like my favorite place ever…Gmarket. You’re going to need a vacuum, but they also make ones you can roll the air out of. They sell these bags in multiple sizes (ie. small, medium, large).

I suggest for large amounts of clothing, 2 medium sized vacuum bags can fit into a Size 5 box (see below for details on box sizes) if you pack them up tightly. The medium sized ones are called “중형” and are usually around 70cm x 60cm. Here’s some listing (the links may die eventually…but here you are anyway…)

Also space saver bags are called 압축팩 in Korean!~~~

bags

Roll type space saver bags

Vacuum type space saver bags

Tip 2: Don’t wait too long to start packing and shipping out your boxes. They can take anywhere from 1-3 months to arrive. You also want to space things out, because you’ll probably be spending about 50,000 won per box. You don’t want to blow 200,000 won in one go.

Tip 3: If you live in a city I recommend packing up a large luggage bag and bringing it to the P.O and packing it there. You can pack it there, and ship it there at once. This helps a lot especially if you have no one to drive you. Supplies are free at the Post Office so you don’t need to bring anything! They have tape, scissors, markers, free bubble wrap, and newspaper.

Tip 4: If you want to save money, don’t overvalue the items in your box. Packages around $100 or more may be taxed by customs. (Customs calculates the total amount you spend going home or things you ship home).

Tip 5: You’re not really supposed to mail liquids, but the reason behind this is because the P.O worries about your liquids exploding or getting on other packages (thereby damaging other people’s packages). But if you tightly seal, tape, and ziplock your liquids it shouldn’t be an issue. Make sure you don’t tell the clerk that you included liquids in your box.

Boxes and Forms

There are basically two methods of packing/sending your things: (1) You can purchase a box at the Post Office in advance, then bring it home, pack it up, and go back and send it. Or (2) (a good method for people living in cities like Seoul, and without a car), you can bring your things you need to pack in your luggage and pack everything up and buy the box at the Post Office—killing 2 birds with 1 stone.

Unless you have someone able to drive you, it’s probably better to bring your stuff to the P.O, pack it up there, and ship it out in one go.

The Korean Post Office sells boxes sized by number: 1 through 6.

The largest post office box you can send by surface mail is Size 5 and 20kg. I made this stupid mistake and bought a size 6 box after reading posts on waygook.org, but really, surface mail max size=size 5. You can of course send smaller sized boxes.

Size 6 can only be shipped by air.

A size 5 box is about 1.5 times the size of a carry-on bag.

You will need a surface mail form to send your box home, so you need to ask for the form at the counter (it isn’t on display for you to grab). Tell the postal worker you want to send your box by boat (배) or by surface mail (선편) to America. They’ll give you the form you need. It looks like this:

20160614_184658

Make sure you fill out all the fields I marked in yellow! Don’t attach the form to your box, because they’ll need to fill out your information in a computer.

The itemized list section is kind of confusing; just make sure you fill it out going across/horizontally. The first time I saw it I didn’t understand it.

Also you need to check off what you want the P.O to do if they can’t deliver your package. There’s two options: Return immediately to the sender (by air or boat) or to simply give up on delivering your package. Both are kind of scary options if you ask me though…
To fill this form out correctly, see my form filled out below:

20160614_184705

And here’s a copy of the receipt they give you once you pay!

20160614_184057

Pricing

If you follow this link to the Post Office site, you can find your country and the estimated cost. They charge based on weight, not based on the size of your box. So make sure you pack and tape up your box like crazy, it’s gonna get really beat up!

Scroll to the bottom of the page and check the prices under “surface parcels.”

In the example, my box was 16.9kg which is around 37.25 pounds. I paid 54,100 won, which is close to the estimation table on the website!

estimation

Experiences of other teachers in my program…

  • “17.84kg = 54,100₩ (surface), arrived in 1.5 months, 4.05kg = 24,500₩ (surface), arrived in 1.5 months, 11.28kg = 132,200₩ (slow air), arrived in 2 weeks”
  • “Don’t put the value of the package to be over $100 otherwise the US may tax it.”
  • “You can’t ship suitcases through surface. If they did, your bags might look they went through the wringer at the end of their journey.”
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4 thoughts on “How to Ship Things Home by Boat in Korea (Surface Mail)

    1. This post is several years old now and I’m currently living in the USA so I can’t give you the most up to date information, but as far as I know, the Post Office in Korea is the only place that offers the surface mail/boat option. The P.O will always be the cheapest option if you are looking to ship economically and if time is not an issue. DHL and FedEx usually offer the fastest shipping methods but are also the most expensive.

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