The UNI-PASS is Korea’s comprehensive and 100% electronic clearance system that unifies all customs procedures from export to import clearance, duty payment, tracking of bonded goods, and requirement confirmation into a one-stop, uninterrupted pass service, enforcing efficiency, transparency, and full control of the customs administration through a stable IT system.
Background and Problem
The development of the first Korean customs system dates back to the 1970s when the Korean economy began growing at an accelerated pace. In the stretch of time since the first customs system, between a paper-based system and an annual 15% increase in trade volume, numerous challenges in custom administration emerged (e.g. no readily available data for research and analysis, long clearance time, voluminous clearance requirements, delay in monthly reports, no proper risk management system, and limited human resources), confronting the Korean Customs Service (KFC) with a resolution to develop an electronic customs clearance system that will computerize customs procedures and automate clearance processes to better serve the public and other government agencies. The computerization and automation process did not hatch overnight—it is a product of years of system improvement and countless trial and error.
Solution and Impact
The UNI-PASS as an e-Customs system has several main components with sub-systems. The Single Window portal, which serves as a one-stop service for all customs clearance procedures, is lodged in the Business Processing Component together with the other modules that gather, consolidate, and transmit information to agencies and entities: the procedural business module (i.e. clearance management, cargo management, duty collection, etc.) and the non-procedural business module (i.e. investigation, surveillance, audit, etc.). The other components supporting the Business Processing Component are the Integrated Risk Management System, the Customs Data Warehouse, Knowledge Management System, Performance Management System, and the Law Compliance System. Overseeing these functions is the Infrastructure Component which provides the tools for administration and control of the customs administration. As far as transparency and efficiency are concerned, the e-clearance system has been instrumental in speeding up transactions by allowing traders and companies to apply online for regulatory permits and licenses, declare goods for importation, locate cargo, and review the progress of import and export clearances in real-time, without having to visit customs offices. The KCS reports that with UNI-PASS, processing of export and import clearances only takes less than 1.5 minutes compared to the respective one-day and two-day processing time before the e-clearance system. Duty drawback and duty payment now only take 5.2 minutes and 10 minutes to process. Previously, the waiting time for processing the two takes two days and four days, respectively. In terms of costs and savings, Final Report on Accomplishment Measurement of Customs Modernization and Development of Accomplishment Management Model by National Computerization Agency (September 2006) stated that for the past 30 years, UNI-PASS has been able to create 3.5B USD as economic effect with the reduction of costs for work process and logistics, savings in infrastructure, and increased income and production by traders and the trade industry.
Furthermore, UNI-PASS has also been facilitative in the more open sharing of information between the KCS, the regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders. Through the platform, customs officers can easily retrieve, verify, and use the information for statistics, analysis, and audits. Customs officers can finally check cargo status and location real-time throughout the process, giving them tracking advantages for ensuring the timely arrival of bonded goods to their destination. In addition, the system gives room for effective integrated risk management: by sorting companies into low-risk and high-risk categories based on compliance records, the customs authority releases faster clearance and related incentives for those categorized as low-risk, and enforces stricter inspections on high-risk companies. With all the system reforms in place, UNI-PASS is able to ensure the integrity of customs service and the satisfaction of customers.
Korea’s UNI-PASS started as a simple trade statistics system when it was launched in 1974. Phased development of the automated clearance occurred between 1990 and 2004. The following were developed at the time: export and import clearance (1996); cargo management (1997); paperless clearance (1998); and the investigation system (1999). Supporting solutions were introduced to the UNI-PASS system such as the Customs Data Warehouse (2001); the Knowledge Management System (2001), and; Risk Management System (2003). As it developed further into a third-generation system, more advanced features were added: Internet Portal (2004), Duty Collection (2005), Drawback (2005), Single Window (2005), Performance Management System (2007), Integrated Risk Management System (2007), and AEO Management System (2008).
In 2011, UNI-PASS began functioning as a fourth-generation system that provides smart business-aligned service and works to establish the International Trade Single Window that will connect e-trade network and import/export logistics networks such as e-Trade Platform of the Korea Trade Network Corp. (KTNET), Korea Air Cargo Information System (KACIS) of Incheon International Airport Corp., Shipping & Port-Internet Data Center (SP-IDC) of KL-NET Corp., etc. Alongside these efforts, KCS is involved in assisting 10 other countries to establish their own e-customs system, among them are Ecuador, Tanzania, and Uzbekistan.