What souvenirs should you buy on your trip to Korea?
A while ago, I wrote a post on my top 5 favorite Korean souvenir gifts and they still hold true to today, with a few additions. Korea has a lot of cool things to buy. But sometimes it’s hard telling the difference between what’s “Korean” and what’s just “Asian”. This post offers a two-part video series about what the best “Korean” souvenirs and gifts to buy when you’re in Korea.
What cool “Korean” things should you buy when you’re in Korea?
As I’ve already discussed the reasons of why they’re Korean in my videos, listed below are tips and information on where you can get them in Seoul. Also, as my YouTube videos have already had a viewer ask where these things can be bought online, I decided to add some of that information here too.
#1. Korean Drama & K-pop fan stuff
Where: Itaewon, Namdaemun, Myeongdong.
Tip: Buying DVDs and CDs in Korea isn’t as cheap as you’d think they’d be, but they’re a bit cheaper than the U.S. If you’re buying DVDs or CDs, make sure the DVD is subtitled with your language. I usually look on the back for this information. It’s marked as Region #1 branding and you’ll see your language mentioned (aka “English subtitles”). Here’s a DVD region code table to check which you should get.
Online stores : Amazon
I bought my dvds from the places below. There’s one seller I used to get dvds from real cheap, even though the site looked sketchy. I still took a gamble.
2. Cute Socks
Cute socks are ubiquitous. Blame it on Korea’s paranoia with dirty feet! You can find them anywhere from street and metro vendor stalls to Daiso (dollar store). Cost: 1,000-2,000 won
3. Korean silverware
Where to buy : Insadong (traditional goods & souvenirs), Daiso ( one dollar stores), traditional markets and grocery & household supply stores, such as Emart, HomePlus and Lotte. Cost : 2,000 won to 24,000won +
4. Traditional Korean cutesy items
Where to buy: Koreans love cute and you’ll find many cute items all around Seoul, in areas such as Hongdae. But for cute souvenirs that spell historical “K.O.R.E.A. “, Insadong is the place. Not only did my mom get me that cute bear in a hanbok there, but I’ve also bought cutesy hand-crafted cellphone holders, wallets and keychains which bear traditional Korean theater mask styles.
I also wouldn’t underestimate trinket or cellphone accessory street vendors or in the underground metro malls. I’ve seen keychains with miniature bottles of soju and the Korean won.
A breakdown of Seoul neighborhoods: 9 Places to Make you Fall in Love with Seoul.
5. Korean Beauty Products
Myeongdong is the area you’ll have them all the beauty product shops in one place. But beauty/skin care shops like Faceshop, Missha, Nature Republic, Tony Moly, Hollika Hollika are ubiquitious in Korea. You’ll find them at any multi-department household store and even in underground metros.
I’m a huge fan of BB cream. BB cream has absolutely changed my life from a non-makeup wearing person, to someone who would love to have Song Hye Kyo’s skin in the small time it takes to put on an all-in-one product. So when I go to Korea, I stock up on them. Cost: 10,000 -24,000 won. They’re generally over 10,000w, but not by much; especially compared to U.S. prices which are literally, thrice the cost!
Online stores: Amazon
Where to buy: Any beauty care store in Korea. Cost: 1,000 -15,000 won (depending on single vs. multi-pack)
Tip: These are occasionally free when you walk into a skin care store with a girl holding a basket outside. Check those baskets they’re passing out! However, beauty care shops also do huge deals on bulk facial packs for relatively cheap.
Weird beauty items
Asia in general has a different aesthetic from the West. So you’ll find curious novelty items that you might not ordinarily see at home. How about some double-eyelid tape, a jaw massager to reduce your jawline or even a facial slimming V-Line mask (watch my video here)?
Where to buy: Check out Yongsan Electronics Mall (located outside Yongsan station), Techno Mall, E-mart and Lotte.
Tip: If you’re going to Yongsan Electronics mall, be prepared to know your prices and negotiate. Not all technology is cheap in Korea. In fact, often I’ve found it to be otherwise. For haggle stress-less shopping, I’d go to Emart and Lotte.
The hanbok is the traditional costume of historical Korea. It is what the kimono is for Japan and the sari is for India. As such today it is still worn by Korean women and men during very special occasions and celebrations. Cost: Hanboks (top and bottom) run from 130,000 -700,000 Won, depending on the fabric quality. Hanboks are sold custom made and can take anywhere from one to three weeks.
Where to buy: Dongdaemun & Gwangjang Market
Move over Jack Daniels and Smirnoff, because soju is the drink of this country. Known as the Korean vodka, soju comes in a little green bottle and is the bitter drink that Koreans often bond to. What’s the most popular soju to get: Jinro. The brand has outperformed even popular liquors in the U.S. Here’s a fun guide on how to drink soju like a Korean. Cost: 1,000-3,000 won
Where to buy: Any grocery or convenience store. If you forget about it, you can buy them at the airport.
Tip: I’ve gotten them at the airport, because I didn’t want to risk them cracking in my luggage. If you pack them in your luggage, use your clothes to pad and bundle them. Another alternate is to take a padded wine holder. It’s a great way to transport wine bottles when you’re traveling or just going to a party!
Where can I get these things if I don’t go to Korea?
Many people can’t afford a trip to Korea but still want to feel a part of culture. I’d suggest hitting your local K-town (aka Korea town) and checking out some of the Korean stores and grocery stores. Korean festivals might also sell some Korean products. Also, beauty product stores are rapidly popping up~ Faceshop, Nature Republic, Missha. You’ll definitely pay export costs on these things, so it’s best gotten in Korea if you can.
Watch my Top 5 Travel Tips for Seoul & Korean Culture!
Read/Watch: Top 5 Travel Tips for Seoul