South Korea is one of the world’s largest importers of timber and wood-based products. About 90% of the country’s demand for timber is met by imports, nearly 15% of which are estimated to be illegal. The government’s response to the trade in illegal timber has been limited. New legislation on the sustainable use of timber was passed in 2012 which includes provisions related to illegal logging, but its impact will depend on how the provisions are implemented. The private sector response has also been slow, although the rapid growth in the number of companies with FSC chain-of-custody certification may indicate a shift (Chatham House, 2014).
About 60% of South Korea is covered by forests, of which more than half are primary forests. The majority of these forests are privately owned, while nearly a third is owned by the state. The country has a relatively low rate of deforestation, just 0.1% annually for the period 2010-15 (FAO, 2015).