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Shopping in Korea

Updated on March 11, 2013

Famous markets: Namdaemun and Dongdaemun

Although Korea is the most expensive Asian country I’ve traveled to, this does not mean that there are no bargains to be found. In fact, Korea has lots to offer in terms of shopping places.

Firstly, in Seoul, there are the famous markets of Namdaemun and Dongdaemun. Due to the limited time I had, I only visited Dongdaemun. There are a few malls there like Migliore and APM. These two are very similar to Bangkok’s Platinum Mall in the sense that there is no anchor tenant. Instead, there are many small shops selling various items. Outside the malls, there are various food stalls selling things like Korean snacks and even waffles. In Dongdaemun, many people also frequent Doosan Tower, more widely known as Doota. Here, prices are fixed and are more expensive than the other two malls. The area also has stalls selling fabric but I did not visit these stalls as I had no intention of purchasing any cloth. In Korea, there are also many underground shopping areas which allows shoppers to shop as they cross to the opposite street in safety using the underground pathway.

Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral

The historical and beautiful Gothic style Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral.
The historical and beautiful Gothic style Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral.

Myeongdong: Seoul's Orchard Road

Besides Dongdaemun, I also visited Myeongdong which some consider to be Seoul’s Orchard Road. The place is definitely very vibrant and good for people-watching. Although I was there on a Thursday, there were lots of people walking about. Myeongdong contains many flagship stores for brands like Forever 21. It is also a great place to buy skincare products as they are all located close to one another. Thus, you will also see the store assistants trying to grab your attention by giving out freebies like cotton pads or samples of BB cream. There are may great buys in terms of skincare products with masks selling from 1000 won onwards only. If there is a sale, you may even purchase them at a better price!

Nanta performance

At about 5pm, hawkers start opening up their stalls which sell items like clothes, food and accessories. Within Myeongdong, there are also other attractions like the Nanta Theatre where there are daily performances of the Nanta show. For those who admire architecture, there is the Myeongdong Cathedral. It is the first brick church in Korea built in the Gothic style and has been designated as a historic spot.

Itaewon and Shinchon

I also made a short stop at Itaewon where you will spot more Caucasians walking about. Personally, I did not feel that the place was as interesting as Myeongdong. The night that I was there I saw a few roadside stalls selling souvenirs like fridge magnets and chopsticks. There are also many restaurants around but the human traffic seemed much lower than in Myeongdong.

In Seoul, my last shopping stop was at Shinchon which is famous as a ladies’ market as it offers many women’s clothing, shoes and accessories as affordable prices. This is due to the fact that is is located close to Seoul’s universities like Yonsei, Ewha, Sogang and Hongik.

Mini harubang

A popular souvenir at Jeju Island is the mini harubang.
A popular souvenir at Jeju Island is the mini harubang.

Shopping at Jeju Island

Farther away from Seoul, Korea’s capital city, I also found great buys at Jeju Island. The island is famous for its tangerines. Besides the actual fruit, there are orange-flavoured chocolates on sale too. The Harubang is the island’s “God of Protection” and is unique to the island. Thus, various shops sell miniature versions of the Harubang as souvenirs.

Korean ginseng

Korean ginseng is a nutritious herb. It is also an important ingredient in samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup).
Korean ginseng is a nutritious herb. It is also an important ingredient in samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup).

Korean ginseng: Good for Health

Besides the normal purchases like clothes and shoes, there are other goods to purchase. Korean is famous for Korean ginseng. This herb is well-known for its curative abilities including the ability to improve blood circulation and to stabilize blood pressure. Nevertheless, it is an expensive good and may not be affordable to all. 


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    • lilian_sg profile image

      lilian_sg 6 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for commenting hellolsy! You can check my other hubs on South Korea to discover places to visit =)

    • profile image

      hellolsy 6 years ago

      Very useful!

    • profile image

      hellolsy 6 years ago

      Was thinking about where to go if i get to go there?

    • lilian_sg profile image

      lilian_sg 7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for rating this up. If you ever visit Korea, have fun shopping!

    • febriedethan profile image

      febriedethan 7 years ago from Indonesia

      Wow..I love your hub, thank you for providing such wonderful shopping guide for me haha..rated up of course.