South Korea closes market to illegally-harvested timber

South Korea has become the latest country to implement legislation to prevent imports of illegally-harvested timber.

The compulsory legislation — the Act on the Sustainable Use of Timbers — entered into force on 1 October. It currently covers lumber, plywood, pallets and anti-decay, fire retardant or laminated wood. Together, these products account for a large portion of South Korea’s imports of timber and timber products. The Korea Forest Service may extend the product scope in the future.
South Korean importers must now submit documents, for example harvesting permits, to Korean Customs authorities to show that their timber and timber products are legal. The legality standard issued by the Korea Forest Service recognizes FLEGT-licensed timber as legally harvested. 

After the Korea Forest Service has confirmed that the products are legal, Korea Customs will clear the imports for entry into the country. Unverified timber cannot be sold and has to be returned or destroyed. Non-compliance with the legislation will trigger fines and, in severe cases, imprisonment. 

The Korea Forest Service and the Korea Forestry Promotion Institute are compiling country specific-guides to help importers understand timber legality in key source countries.

In implementing the new law, South Korea joins the 28 Member States of the European Union, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Norway and the United States, which have already adopted legislation to close their markets to illegal timber.