Reading Korean Nutrition Labels

Navigating the aisles of a South Korean grocery store can be an adventure, especially if you’re not familiar with the language or the art of decoding nutrition labels on Korean food packaging. Understanding these labels can be a game-changer when it comes to making informed food choices.

Before we continue, it’s important to note that this blog does not intend to provide medical or nutrition advice. Instead, we aim to equip you with the knowledge and skills to decipher South Korean food labels confidently. So, let’s dive into the world of Korean nutrition labels!

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Where to Find Nutrition Labels on Packaging

In South Korea, the location of nutrition labels varies depending on the food’s packaging. You’ll typically find the labels on the back of the packaging, but not all packaged foods follow this pattern. Nutrition information may also appear on the front of packages (shown in the images of Hetbahn Cooked Multi-grain Rice below) or on the sides of packages (shown in the images of Peacock Egg Potato Salad below). These label placements might differ from what you’re accustomed to in your home country, so it may take you some time to adjust.

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Since each section of the overall nutrition label may also appear in different locations depending on the package, so it’s important to use keywords to identify the various components of nutrition labels. For example, the ingredients list has been highlighted with an orange box in the images below to show some variations of the placements. Rather than relying on the location of the list to be consistent, look for the word “원재료명” to identify the ingredients list (also highlighted with an orange box in the images below). From there, you can analyze the ingredients using translation apps, as we’ll discuss later in the blog.

The Basics of Korean Nutrition Labels

Before we dive into reading the nutrition labels, let’s address some basic information related to Korean nutrition labels.

Overseeing Authority

The South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) is responsible for overseeing nutrition label standards. They ensure that labels provide accurate and useful information to consumers. Be sure to refer to information from the MFDS for the most up-to-date nutrition label standards.

Comparing with Labels from Other Countries

If you’re accustomed to labels from other countries, you might notice differences in layout and terminology used in Korean nutrition labels compared to labels from your country. The information required to be reported on Korean food labels may be different from the requirements of other countries, and vice versa. Still, the overarching principles of nutrition labels are universal.

“kcal” vs “cal” for Calories

Calories are a measure of energy, particularly in reference to the amount of energy in food or drinks. For some readers, it may be puzzling to see “Calories” or “Cal” expressed as “kcal.” Don’t worry; “kcal” is simply another way to express calories. One big Calorie (that’s a calorie with a capital ‘C’) is equivalent to 1 kilocalorie, both of which are equal to 1,000 small calories (that’s a calorie with a lowercase ‘c’).

For more information on the topic of caloric units, you can check out the following articles by the American National Health Library and the United Kingdom National Health Services.

Now, let’s break down the various components of Korean nutrition labels.

Calories and Serving Size

Let’s start by dissecting the calorie and serving size information. This information is listed on the same line as the nutrition information label, which is written as “영양정보” in Korean.

  • Nutrition Information = 영양정보 (yeong-yang jeong-bo)

Calorie Breakdown

Nutrition labels in Korea use “kcal.” As discussed in the section above, a “kcal” is equivalent to the ‘Calories’ terminology you may be familiar with on other countries’ food packages, such as the United States.

Serving Size

Understanding serving size is important because it determines the nutritional values provided by a food product. Serving sizes can be presented in several ways on packaged food. The serving sizes are generally listed by mass (e.g., 30 grams). Here are a few examples of how serving sizes may be denoted:

  • Serving Size = 제공량 (jae-gong-nyang) or 1회 제공량
  • Total Amount (in a package) = 총 내용량 (chong nae-yong-nyang)
  • Calories Per Serving = [X]g 당 [Y] kcal
  • [X]g Per Serving = 1회 섭취참고량 [X]g 당

Example: Calories and Serving Size

Using the Peacock Egg Potato Salad as an example, we will highlight the nutrition label, serving size, and calories. A serving of 110 g of Peacock Egg Potato Salad contains 200 kcal, which is equal to 200 Calories (with a capital ‘C’). As shown in the image below:

  • Tag 1 (Blue): 영양정보 refers to nutrition information
  • Tag 2 (Orange): 총 내용량 110 g refers to the serving size or the total amount of food in the package, and 200 kcal is the number of calories per serving.
Peacock Egg Potato Salad Nutrition Label

Ingredients and Allergens

Identifying the ingredients and allergens in a food product is important for making conscious and safe food choices. We will give an overview of how to identify the ingredient list, allergens, and possible risk of cross-contamination when reading Korean nutrition labels.

Ingredient List

The ingredient list on the nutrition label will tell you what’s in the product in descending order of quantity, similar to the US. You can identify the ingredient list on a nutrition label by the Korean word “원재료명.” You can use translation apps to help you read through an ingredient list, and we’ll discuss some translation resources later in the blog.

  • Ingredients = 원재료명 (won-jae-ryo-myeong)
  • Ingredients and Contents = 원재료명 및 함량 (won-jae-ryo-myeong mich ham-nyang)

Allergens: “Contains” and “May Be Produced In a Factory That…”

In this section, we’ll look into a critical aspect of Korean nutrition labels: allergens. These labels provide essential information to help you identify and steer clear of common allergens in food products, ensuring safe and informed consumption.

Allergens are usually highlighted with a contrasting background color at the end of the ingredient list. The allergen box may be a variety of colors, such as yellow, red, and gray. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) sets the required allergens for listing on food packaging.

  • Contains [X allergens] = [X allergens] 함유 (hahm-yoo)

This list includes some common allergens that packaged food in Korea may contain, but it’s not an exhaustive one. You can use translation apps to identify allergens not listed below.

  • Milk = 우유 (ooh-yoo)
  • Egg = 계란 (gye-rahn) or 달걀 (dahl-gyahl) or 알을 (ah-reul)
  • Peanuts = 땅콩 (ttang-kong)
  • Soybean = 대두 (dae-doo)
  • Wheat = 밀 (mil)
  • Shrimp = 새우 (sae-ooh)
  • Pork = 돼지고기 (dwae-jee-go-ghee)
  • Tomato = 토마토 (to-mah-to)
  • Walnuts = 호두 (ho-doo)

Manufacturing facilities can sometimes handle allergens that aren’t part of the final product, which could lead to potential cross-contamination. As a result, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety mandates including this information on the product’s packaging. You’ll usually find this cross-contamination disclosure in a bulleted list, often positioned near the nutrition or ingredient information. The wording of the disclosure may include variations such as:

  • Option 1: 이 제품은 [X Ingredients] 사용한 제품과 같은 제조시설에서 제조하고 있습니다.
  • Option 2: [X Ingredients] 혼입가능.

Example: Ingredients and Allergens

Using the Dongwon My Plant Vegan Tuna as an example, we will highlight the ingredient list, allergen list, and cross-contamination risk disclosure. As shown in the image below:

  • Tag 1 (Light Blue): 원재료명 및 함량 signals the start of the ingredient list.
  • Tag 2 (Orange): 대두, 토마토 함유 indicates that the product contains the allergens soybean and tomato.
  • Tag 3 (White): 이 제품은 알류, 우유, 메밀, 땅콩, 밀, 고등어, 게, 새우, 돼지고기, 복숭아, 아황산류, 호두, 닭고기, 쇠고기, 오진고, 조개류(굴, 전복, 홍합, 포함), 잣을 사용한 제품과 같은 제조시설에서 제조하고 있습니다 indicates that the product was produced in a factory that also processes eggs, milk, buckwheat, peanuts, wheat, mackerel, crab, shrimp, pork, peach, sulfuric acid, walnuts, chicken, beef, squid, shellfish (including oysters, abalone, mussels), and pine nuts.
Dongwon My Plant Vegan Tuna Nutrition Label
Front of Dongwon My Plant Vegan Tuna Package

Nutrient Breakdown

Now, let’s decode the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals section on Korean food labels. Like the calories and serving size, this information is found under the nutrition information (영양정보) section of a food label.


Some of the most common macronutrients displayed on Korean labels include the following with their Korean translations. You can use translation apps to identify nutrients not listed below.

  • Carbohydrates = 탄수화물 (tan-su-hwa-mul)
  • Protein = 단백질 (dan-baek-jil)
  • Fat = 지방 (ji-bang)
  • Saturated Fat = 포화지방 (po-hwa-ji-bang)
  • Trans Fat = 트랜스지방 (teu-raen-seu-ji-bang)
  • Cholesterol = 콜레스테롤 (kol-le-seu-te-rol)
  • Sugars = 당류 (dang-nyu)
  • Sodium= 나트륨 (na-teu-ryum)
  • Calcium = 칼슘 (kal-shee-yum)
  • Dietary Fiber = 식이섬유 (shig-ee-seom-yu)

Vitamins and Minerals

This nutrition label section highlights the key vitamins and minerals included in the food item. The vitamins are not necessarily present on all food packaging, but we have included an example of a vitamins and minerals section in the image below.

  • Vitamin = 비타민 (bee-ta-min)

The word “비타민” is accompanied by its corresponding English letter and number. For example, “Vitamin B6” would be written as “비타민 B6” in Korean.

Daily Values (DV%)

This percentage indicates how much a nutrient in one serving contributes to a daily diet. The percent daily values on Korean labels are based on a 2,000-calorie daily intake. This daily caloric intake may not align with your country’s guidelines or physician’s recommendations, so you can adjust your intake as needed.

The product label will list each nutrient in its appropriate units, such as milligrams (mg), grams (g), or micrograms (µg). Alongside, you’ll find the corresponding percent value, calculated based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories.

Example: Nutrient Breakdown

Using Market O Nature O! Granola Pop as an example, we will highlight the macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, and percent daily values. As shown in the image below:

  • Tag 1 (Blue): This box displays the macronutrients present in the product along with their corresponding amounts.
  • Tag 2 (Orange): This section shows the vitamins and minerals in the product with their respective amounts.
  • Tag 3 (Yellow): The percentages shown are the Daily Values (DV%) of each macronutrient, vitamin, and mineral based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories.
Market O Nature O! Granola Pop Nutrition Label
Front of Market O Nature O! Granola Pop Package

Additional Information

Here are a few additional tips for navigating packaged food in Korea.

Expiration Dates

Ensure your food is fresh and safe by following these instructions. Keep in mind that in Korea, dates follow the order of year/month/day. Expiration dates on food packages may vary in location and can be represented by a few words, such as:

  • Distribution Deadline = 유통기한 (yoo-tong-ghee-hahn)
  • Consumption Deadline = 소비기한 (so-bee-ghee-hahn)
  • Use by Deadline = 사용기한 (sah-yong-ghee-hahn)
  • Until [Date] = [Date] 까지 (kkah-jee)

We have highlighted two examples of expiration dates with an orange box in the images below.

Special Symbols or Icons

Keep an eye out for any unique symbols or icons on labels; they may convey important information.


When exploring Korean packaged food, keep an eye out for storage symbols. These small icons guide you on how to store your food for optimal freshness.

Food that should be frozen will usually have a snowflake symbol. The image below of Mom’s Dish Chicken shows an example of the snowflake icon in a light blue square.

Mom’s Dish Chicken Package Storage Instructions
Mom’s Dish Chicken Package

For items requiring refrigeration, keep an eye out for the term “냉장 제품” or simply “냉장,” accompanied by various symbols. You might see icons like a refrigerator or a snowflake (which can be confusingly similar to frozen). The image of Maniker Mung Bean Chicken Stew Package below has an example of the fridge icon outlined by a blue square.

Maniker Mung Bean Chicken Stew Storage Instructions
Maniker Mung Bean Chicken Stew Package

The Joowon Duck packaging uses a leaf symbol alongside “냉장” to indicate that the product should be refrigerated, as shown in the blue square.

Joowon Duck Storage Instructions
Joowon Duck Packaging


Check for recycling symbols and guidelines on food packaging. Keep in mind that garbage and recycling regulations differ by district, so consult your local waste disposal resources. You can watch the video below made by Seoul National University Office of International Affairs students to learn some of the basics of waste disposal and recycling in Korea.

Cooking Instructions

Packaged foods may have cooking instructions on the packaging when appropriate. Cooking instructions may be displayed in a number of ways and can be identified by images, times, and numbered steps. The orange boxes below highlight a few examples of how cooking instructions may be displayed on different products.

Reading Korean Nutrition Labels Practice

Let’s analyze the nutrition label from a T Asia Kitchen Pu Phat Phong package to put all the previously outlined information into practice. The first image below shows the front of the T Asia Kitchen Pu Phat Phong package, and the second image shows the back.

We will number and identify each section on the food nutrition label below. The front of the package may offer a preview of some nutrition information for a product, such as:

  • Tag 1: 170 g 220 kcal = Serving Size (170 g) and Calories (220 kcal)
  • Tag 2: Lists a preview of the ingredients (and their percent content)

Now, when you look at the back of the package, you can see the following information moving from the top to the bottom of the package.

  • Tag 3: 원재료명 = Ingredient List
  • Tag 4: 계란, 게, 우유 함유 = Contains the allergens egg, crab, milk.
  • Tag 5: 이 제품은 대두,밀,메밀,땅콩,고등어,새우,닭고기,쇠고기,돼지고기,복숭아,토마토,아황산류,호두,오징어,조개류,잣을 사용한 제품과 같은 제조시설에서 제조하고 있습니다 = Product was produced in a factory that also processes soybean, wheat, buckwheat, peanut, mackerel, shrimp, chicken meat, beef, pork, peach, tomato, sulfuric acid, walnut, squid, shellfish, and pine nuts.
  • Tag 6: 영양정보 = Nutrition Information
  • Tag 7: 총 내용량 170 g 220 kcal = Serving Size (170 g) and Calories (220 kcal)
  • Tag 8: This box displays the macronutrients and minerals present in the product followed by their corresponding amounts and percent values.
    • Example from the package: 포화지방 10 g 67% = Saturated Fat 10 g 67% of Daily Value

Overall Example

Front of T Asia Kitchen Pu Phat Phong with labels
Back of T Asia Kitchen Pu Phat Phong with labels


Translation resources, such as Papago or Google Translate, may be helpful tools if you need language assistance while navigating Korean food labels.

Using Papago to Read Labels

Papago is a great tool for translating ingredients on food packaging. With the Papago app, you can snap a photo of the ingredients list and have the information translated in seconds. However, as with any translation app service, the information may not always be translated accurately. Watch the video below for a tutorial on how to use the image translator on Papago.

Example of how to use Papago’s image translator to see if a product is halal-friendly

Additional Resources For Reading Korean Food Labels

Our Muslim readers can learn more about navigating food labels to find halal-friendly packaged food by checking out the blog Looking for Halal: Reading Korean Food Labels.

For more information and handy tools on Korean nutrition labels:


Understanding Korean nutrition labels is a valuable skill when navigating South Korean grocery stores. Navigating Korean nutrition labels can seem daunting at first, but with the insights shared in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to interpret these labels more confidently. By decoding these labels, you can gain insight into what’s inside that intriguing package. Happy label reading!

Note: The food labeling standards in South Korea are continually updated and changed. To stay up to date on the most current labeling standards, refer to the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.