South Korea is one of the world’s most important and innovative industrialized countries. Many products entering the South Korean market must be tested and certified in order to be introduced to the market. Every manufacturer exporting products to South Korea needs to be familiar with KC certification as it is the only product quality certification in the country. This article explains and describes all the key information and the entire KC certification process.
KC, or Korea Certification, proves that a product meets the Korean Quality Standards or K Standards. It was introduced in 2009 to replace and unify the previous 13 different quality certification systems. This system aims to prevent and reduce the risks related to safety, health, or environmental impact.
What is the KC certification for?
The KC certificate is similar to the European Union CE mark and applies to 730 different products. It confirms that a product meets current Korean safety standards.
KC mark product categories include:
- Consumer goods
- household appliances
- high visibility warning clothing
- audio & video equipment
- spectacle frames
- fire extinguishers
- motorbike helmets
- automotive parts
- Products for children
- bicycles for children
- chairs for children
- textiles for children and babies
- school utensils
- High voltage and higher risk products (certification):
- wiring harnesses
- electrical cables
- switches for electrical apparatus
- insulated transformers
- fuse holders
- motorized electrical tools
- High voltage and higher risk products (safety inspection):
- electrical switches
- audio and video equipment
- electrical equipment
- information technology equipment,
- Products with lower voltage (supplier compliance):
- chargers for electrical devices
- starters for fluorescent lamps
- DC power supplies
- High voltage and higher risk products (certification):
The Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) is responsible for KC certification in South Korea. It is part of the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy (MOTIE). KATS is responsible for the regulatory framework for marketing various consumer products to ensure consumer safety. It is also responsible for standards development and the international coordination of standardization activities.
Products that require the KC label must be compliant with:
- the Industrial Product Quality Management and Safety Control Act
- and the Electrical Equipment Safety Act.
The KC certification process consists of several steps and involves many documents.
KC certification step by step
- Preparation of application and documents
- Registration at the Korean certification authority
- Factory inspection (only for Korea Safety Certificate)
- Product tests in an accredited test laboratory
- Documentation verification and issuance of the KC Mark Certificate
The following application documents are needed for the KC Mark Certification:
- Application Form
- Business License
- Complete contact details of the Korean importer and the production plant
- Product descriptions and/or user manuals (in the Korean language)
- List of critical components
- KC or CB certificates of critical components
- Circuit diagrams (electronic products only)
- Example for the KC marking
- If available, CB certificate and test report of the products according to IEC standards, which includes 220V (AC) 60Hz
The KC certification application documents are reviewed after submission. To obtain the KC Mark, the products must be tested for safety by an internationally recognized testing institute. The tests are performed in accordance with national and international standards.
If CB certificates and test reports according to IEC standards are available for the respective products, the certification and testing process is simplified and takes less time. However, an important requirement is that the CB certificate must include the Korean voltage of 220V (AC) / 60 Hz.
In addition, manufacturers of safety products (Type 1) must undergo a factory inspection according to Korean specifications. After receiving the KC certificate, type 1 KC certification continues to have regular follow-up audits and product testing.
Product testing is required in many cases for product certification for the Korean market to show compliance with K (Korean) Standards. For Type 1 KC certification, for example, product tests are mandatory for initial certification and subsequent follow-ups to maintain the certification status. At the end, the manufacturer must be able to present test reports on product safety issued by internationally recognized testing laboratories.
There are three major certification bodies that are accredited and permitted to conduct product tests and audits and issue certificates:
- Korea Testing Laboratory (KTL)
- Korea Testing and Research Institute (KTR)
- Korea Testing and Certification (KTC)
For a KC certification that only requires product testing, the process can usually be completed within 3-4 months. It includes preparing the application documents, assuming all the necessary information is provided and correct.
Product testing takes 1-2 months, depending on how much coordination with the test lab for a specific product is required. Moreover, the process can be significantly shortened under certain conditions (completed CB certification), as product re-testing is not required.
For product categories that require a factory audit, the certification process takes longer as it requires more steps.
If the product has been successfully certified for the South Korean market, the KC Mark certification label must be displayed on the product. Depending on the type of certification, the KC logo should normally be in blue or gold and with the certificate number.
Additionally, it is usually required that certain product information, like model name, manufacturer data, and rated voltage, are also on the label. The information must be in Korean (English is optional).
What does the KC mark look like?
The KC certification label looks like this (capitalized and stylized K and C letters):
If you are looking for information about the KC Certificate, you may also see the name KCC or, less commonly, MIC. The KC certificate is the newest name for both of these marks. Since the Korean Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) changed its name to the Korean Communications Commission (KCC), the mark had to be changed accordingly.
On November 11, 2008, the KCC was created, and on January 1, 2011, the name was changed again to KC. Although it has been many years since this modification, there are still products with the previous mark on the market, but it refers to the same regulations.