I will go on holiday to Seoul for a week, in 2 days. I would like to take small amounts (enough to cover my trip) of propantheline tablets, mometasone cream and fluticasone nasal spray with me.

I understand that, according to the letter of the law, I should have a doctor's note. I have left it too late to get one. The first two were prescribed for me and the third is available OTC in the UK (although my doctor knows why I have it). I would like to know, given that they were prescribed, the amount is very small and the potential for abusing this stuff is very low, what sort of risk I am taking.

I know, for example, in Dubai, I could land myself in prison, whereas when I travel in Europe, nobody minds at all and I would be surprised if a customs officer would take it upon him/herself to do anything other than confiscate it.

All of the advice I have seen is "take a doctor's note", which is sadly not realistic in 2 days. I have seen a very small number of threads saying that they are fairly relaxed but there isn't much information on this and I don't know what to expect.

  • 3
    Do you have a reason to believe these are controlled drugs in South Korea? These are not drugs of abuse in this form, and I don't think they will spark the slightest interest in a customs officer. An American prescription label itself generally indicates the patient and doctor name. There have recently been incidents with amphetamines. Do you have a link that South Korea treats these the same way? Sep 8, 2016 at 0:32
  • I think and hope you're right. It would be common sense to adopt this approach. However, I have read that a doctor's note should normally accompany medication and I am unclear of where they draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not (since it varies from country to country). Most of the article I've read refer to amphetamines/benzos etc. that obviously have a different abuse profile and there is little on other medication.
    – James
    Sep 8, 2016 at 13:17
  • I brought it with me, put in in my hand luggage and nobody said anything. Customs in Seoul was much more relaxed and efficient than London, actually.
    – James
    Sep 18, 2016 at 10:53

1 Answer 1


There are special provisions regarding drugs considered controlled substances, but for those that are not, the US Embassy Seoul advise:

For medications that do not contain narcotics or amphetamines, up to six bottles of medication (or equivalent to a three-month supply) will be permitted into Korea, provided they are for personal use only. Visitors must bring the original prescriptions, a letter from your doctor specifying the medical condition, and a statement from your doctor on the medicines you are importing.

What I would expect is that you will have (had) no problem. However this is based on a couple of very unsatisfactory assumptions: (i) were problems to be expected we would have heard something of cases where issues had arisen and (ii) however arbitrary bureaucrats can be at times, there is nothing to be gained by depriving you of these medicines.

Forging a doctor's letter should not have been required as the odds of being asked for one would seem miniscule. However, even someone being particularly officious may care only that you have a piece of paper and next to nothing for what is written on it. I have no experience of South Korea but I have never, ever, anywhere had any interest whatsoever shown in my medicines - not even to determine they happened not to be prescription ones. In fact at the moment I can't recall ever having my bags searched on entry to any foreign country (maybe US and Australian Agriculture each had a quick look?) and that would be a step before examining the labels on bottles and tubes.

It is too late to abide by the regulations. You choices seem to have been either to leave them behind and replace them in Korea as required, or to take them with you and hope for the best. Either (as I would expect) no uncomfortable questions and I hope a nice time in Seoul, or, what seems the worst plausible possibility, your medicines are confiscated but you are still allowed entry. So even the 'downside' is probably only the need to replace them once in Korea.

Of course, you could decide to postpone your trip until after consulting your doctor, but that really does not seem to me necessary.

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