Shopping in South Korea

Fashion streets and boutiques, sprawling malls, trendy street shops, and even the occasional flea market - name it, and you'll find it in South Korea. So be it a uniquely Korean souvenir that you want to take home, or a taste of what the country has to offer, or just window shopping, just head out of your hotel - and into a shopaholic's paradise.

There is no shortage of places to shop at in South Korea!

Unsure of what to buy whilst in South Korea? Our South Korea Shopping Guide provides all the information you need on what to buy whilst on a holiday in South Korea. For more specific details, including details of recommended shops, go to the Seoul Shopping Guide. And don't forget to finish off a shopping trip with a visit to one of the wonderful South Korea Restaurants, where you're sure to leave feeling completely satisfied.

South Korea Shopping Guide

What South Korea is Famous For

Ginseng

Ginseng is a herb that has great medicinal value and this Asian wonder drug has found its way into many oils, lotions and concoctions all over the world. Though it is a little expensive, it's famed for balancing the "chi" or the energy in the body and is considered almost an elixir for overall well-being, health and longevity. This herb is used in Korean cuisine as well, and is also consumed in small quantities or in powder form as a medicine. Cheaper alternatives like ginseng rice cakes and candies are also popular, and they're effective too.

Amethyst

There are exclusive amethyst shops in Seoul that sell mostly amethyst jewellery. For the discerning shopper, here's how you find out if an amethyst is grade A or grade B. Grade A ones are dark purple in colour and more expensive. Grade B ones are lighter when compared to grade A and are more affordable.

Honey

Korean honey can be found everywhere, but look for it in the Jeju Folk Village, where it is sold in quaint little jars.

Kimchi

Pickled vegetables like cabbage, cucumber, carrot and radish make up the unique Korean dish called Kimchi. Seasoned with red pepper and other spices, it is allowed to ferment and age in big jars for certain periods of time and is then sold bottled. It is very sour and spicy and a perfect accompaniment to any party that you plan to throw back home. As the signature Korean dish, Kimchi is found everywhere.

Ceramic

Korean ceramic is a national treasure with simple and functional designs meant for actual usage. Bright colours and skilled craftsmanship together create items of everlasting beauty.

Wine and Liquor

Hanju, which is the Korean white wine, is usually sold in traditional Korean ceramic jars and makes for a great gift. Bulhwi is liquor that is actually strengthened with around 12 medicinal herbs, including red ginseng and Dongchunghacho - a mushroom that grows in silkworm - and is consumed more as a health drink than as liquor.

Icheon Rice

This was the staple diet of Korea's royalty. Known for its distinct flavour, it is usually transparent. It has low calorific value and protein, but has high amounts of amino acids, vitamin, iron and thiamine, all recommended for a healthy diet.

Mushroom Snacks

Another great gifting idea - these are processed and preserved, and are sold bottled.

Where to Shop

The International Market

Located in Busan, called the Gukje Shijang, is Korea's largest, busiest and most popular marketplace. Made up of numerous streets that stretch on and on, and the many alleyways that connect these streets, you can find clothes, electronics, gifts and souvenir shops, traditional Korean gifts, jewellery, music, stationery and foodstuff in this market. To get here, you will need to get off at the Nampo-Dong station on the subway, and walk a little distance. A huge underground shopping complex has been thoughtfully constructed here, for those times when the weather can be extreme.

Namdaemun Market

Seoul's most famous market near the Great South Gate. This market was Seoul's primary export destination and has a huge array of clothing and garment shops, flower markets, fashion streets, art and traditional Korean souvenirs, mushroom snacks, herbs and seaweed.

Yongsan Electronics Market

Primarily a market for electronic goods and computers located in the Yongsan area near Itaewon. Temporary shops are the norm here, so you will not be able to locate a shopkeeper for complaints or replacement. So do exercise caution before making purchases.

Insa-dong and Itaewon-dong

Good places to shop for ginseng, gift items, ceramics and porcelain, artwork, jewellery, wooden artefacts, pottery, lacquer ware and earthenware. You will also find exquisite silk, linen, bags, suitcases and travel kits.

Shinjang Shopping Mall

A slightly different market than the rest. If you're on the lookout for awesome bargains on shoes, Cuban cigars and tailored suits, this is the place to check out.

Yangjae Flower Market

This is where you will find your gardening goods and Garak Market is where you need to go to for fresh agricultural produce and seafood in southeastern Seoul.