Shopping in Koreatown can be a lot. There are so many choices, it’s hard to know what’s worth buying.
Having a game plan before you leave the house helps.
Here are the top stores and unique items in K-town that are worth a look.
Dookbaegi stone pots are the ultimate versatile, non-stick cooking item. You can make things like omelets and bulgogi without using oil.
Ceramic cooking items and are worth checking out as well. Dinnerware like bowls, cups, tea pots are super nice.
Don’t forget to pick up some scissors for Kimchi and Galbi too.
Metal chopsticks are a big deal in Korea. Live in the country long enough and you’ll hear that people who use metal chopsticks have higher IQs and are good with their hands. Go figure.
You can get some high-quality ones in K-town shops. They carry training chopsticks for babies and beginners.
Get style with your retail therapy. Modern hanbok outfits and robes are sure to spice up your wardrobe.
Korean pajamas are nice and come in cute animal designs. You can even get matching ones for your significant smother, I mean other.
They also make pretty nice street wear for when you want to dress down.
Shopping tip: personal space
It’s customary in Korea for store clerks to hover. This is considered good service, so don’t take it personally. Say, “I’m just looking” if you feel uncomfortable.
Korean rice cookers are top notch. Even the budget ones will have “delicious” mode. Some of the nicer ones have reservation mode that will start cooking rice at a certain time, like an Instant Pot.
LG is great at making affordable and reliable home appliances. Their washers play a tune when they’re finished making chores feel less like work.
And who can forget kimchi fridges with settings like “preserve” and “ferment”. I can’t.
5. Cosmetics and skincare
Korean skincare and cosmetics offer the best value for money. They’ve developed skincare routines that are 10 steps long and all the products to use in them. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to do all ten steps to get the benefits. Some products have multiple effects to save you steps.
Vegan cosmetics are so hot right now in Korea, and they’re great for sensitive skin.
One of the most convenient Korean makeup items is “cushion“. It inspired other brands like YSL, Chanel and Dior to make their own too. With a cushion, you can skip makeup base, foundation, concealer and powder. Cushion is all you need to apply on a busy morning!
Some notable stores to look for are:
- Olive Young
All you need to do is go inside and tell them what you need.
Stationary stores are big business in Korea. Grade school students are known to study a bit in the country, so they have all the tools available.
Artbox is the biggest chain with some cool things like socks, pens, notebooks, umbrellas and everything your kid needs to be an academic powerhouse.
Don’t be afraid to check out smaller stores since they often have different items.
7. Baked goods
Koreans do bread a little differently. You might want to check out their cakes, which are lighter than American ones, but still tasty. I recommend Korean fruit cakes like strawberry cream cake.
Also, traditional snacks like hodu gwaja (walnut red bean paste pastry) and chalbori ppang (cinnamon barley pancakes) are delicious and somewhat nutritious.
Big franchises like Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours are easy to find in most Koreatowns. Try some mom-and-pop shops for better quality.
Shopping tip: walk away
If you don’t feel welcome at any store, turn around and leave. You’re better off going elsewhere, trust me.
Beds lean toward firm, but some of the pieces are quite stylish.
Many things like chests of drawers have nice dark woods and mother of pearl inlaid designs.
9. Ceramic vases
Vases are top notch and a tasteful addition to any room. They’re so pretty, you don’t even need to put anything in them.
Korean optometry blew me away the first time. Many places in the states have caught up, but once you find a good Korean optometrist, you’ll never go back. They fix things quickly and often for free.
Potted plants are a big hit in Korea. Flowers are cheaper there and they create some unique arrangements you won’t find elsewhere.
12. Potted plants
Succulents, Stucci and Orchids are popular. They’re great for cleaning the air and lowering stress in any room.
13. K-pop stores
From light sticks to season’s greetings kits, K-pop stores are the place to get official merch featuring your favorite idols. Check out Artbox or 10X10 (Ten By Ten) for the following:
- photo cards
- key chains
- iPhone cases
You can find both Korean and English books in Koreatown.
Aladdin is known for having the best used book buying/selling policy. They use a system that pays out according to the condition, popularity and stock of the book you’re selling.
Kyobo Mungo and Young Poong Mungo are the largest chains that carry just about everything.
Shopping tip: ask for stuff
Korean store owners often offer free gifts or bulk discounts. It never hurts to ask if you’re buying a lot of stuff in one place.
Seriously. Fruit is a popular gift in Korea. They’ve created some interesting hybrids in addition to native varieties. I recommend:
Most places that sell fruit will arrange them into a nifty gift basket.
Whether you’re looking for Dol banji or 100-day anniversary rings, Korean jewelers have you covered. They also sell a lot of birthstones (탄생석 or tan saeng seok) and Korean name necklaces which make great gifts.
No shopping trip to Koreatown would be complete without some soothing green tea. Osulloc is the easiest brand you can find overseas specialized in the emerald leaf.
18. Red ginseng
Millions of Korean grandparents can’t be wrong. This stuff works.
Red ginseng gives you an immediate energy boost and stamina to last all day without the caffeine headache.
Should I haggle in Koreatown?
Yes, but read the room. It’s totally fine outside of department stores in Korea, but the rules get fuzzy in other countries like the USA. They’ll often offer free gifts if you buy a lot or bulk discounts.
What else can I do in K-town after shopping?
Here are a few ideas:
- Sing noraebang
- Go to a spa
- Get your hair done at a Korean salon
- Eat KBBQ
- Play drinking games
- Explore the town
- Learn more about Korea
- Brush up on your hallyu history
- Watch a Korean movie or TV show
- Listen to Korean music
- Get involved in a Korean American Association
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Did we miss anything?
Let us know your thoughts or questions about shopping in Koreatown!
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