Thursday, November 4, 2010

Where to Shop In Korea

I am no expert, but since I've lived in Korea, and more importantly, my *parents* live in Korea, I feel like I have a unique perspective on where to go, what to buy.

I see a lot of tourists go to the same old same old: Dongdaemun, for the young and hip and Namdaemun, for the rest. I think these places are great starting points, but there are a lot of other hidden gems in Korea. I am going to talk about Seoul, because that is what I'm familiar with, but obviously, other cities have great places to shop as well.


Insadong: Whilst this is also become more and more of a tourist trap, there are definitely some awesome shops that sell great jewelry. Insadong is well known as an artistic district, and you can definitely feel that when you enter this district. What I recommend is to walk around, go into any shop or store that looks interesting.

What to buy: Jewelry! There are some interesting shoes and clothes, but I find jewelry is the way to go. I was going to buy Mr. T some interesting cufflinks that were only 35 USD, and there is this one huge place that basically are individual boutiques that sell all different kinds of amasing things.

One thing I bought at Insadong

Myongdong: A young and hip district in north Seoul. And yes, this is also becoming touristy. (Seriously, it seems everyone is in the know! Booo)Totally recommend. Go into all the little alleyways and look at the shops that aren't name brands, i.e. Gap, etc. The only store I say you should go that is a chain is, you guess it, Uniqlo.

What to Buy: Clothes, accessories, street food. Walk around; there are stores that sell earrings for a dollar, and there are also boutiques that sell clothes for a very good price. And the best thing is that the street food is delish! OMG I'm getting hungry. Eating and shopping: what more could you ask for???
I got this for a buck at one of those cheapie stores in Myongdong!
Dongdaemun: Generally, there are two places that people go to: Doota or Migliore. My take? You get what you pay for. The clothes here are generally really cheap, but they also *are* cheaply made. You really have to look. Also, go late; it's a great place to go late at night because they open late and close in the AM. It's a lot of fun and once again, the food is awesome!!! (If you haven't noticed, Koreans really do it best: eat and shop, then eat and shop some more.)
Caveat: There is a secret place, where not a lot of people know about, but *that*place has the BEST stuff for a good price. I've never gone there, so when I do, I'll let you know exactly *where* it is. =)

What to Buy: Clothes, Accessories. I recommend before you buy, LOOK at the clothes. I got some amasing leather pants there for 100 bux, (Yay!) and I also got some crappy clothes that I just used and threw away. So really, FEEL the clothes, look at the stitching.

Note: It's required you haggle here. Unlike Insadong or Myongdong, where it's not as prevalent, no haggling here means you're going to be paying more than you should.

Namdaemun: Go early, because the shops open early and close by 4PM. To me, Namdaemun is really hit or miss. If you are looking for clothes, this might not be the best place to go, but in terms of diversity, there is a lot of things. What I really enjoy is the Dokkaebi Market, i.e. the Black Market, only because I like to see what they have. I never buy anything, but it's fun to go.

What to Buy: Accessories, especially for the hair. They have some really cute stuff. And also, earrings, shoes and bags. But most importantly, the food. Seriously. It's that good.
One of the hair accessories I bought!

Jongro-gu: There is an alleyway that sells second-hand jewelry. It's kind of sketchy, but you could get a great deal. My mom and I went and I bought a cocktail ring for 60 USD. It's gold, with black and white. It's beautiful and I know I couldn't get it for that price anywhere.

What to Buy: Jewelry! There are cocktail rings with beautiful gems that you can get for the fraction of the price. If you can find this alleyway, you can get a great deal. It's hidden and only people in the know go there. One thing: you need to speak Korean or you will be shafted. Big time. It's really sketchy. But awesome!

Apgujung: Want to go to the ritziest area of Seoul, shopping wise? Go here. Think of it as a Korean version of Rodeo Drive. My friend, A, and I met up there and the same kimbap that costs 1 USD elsewhere is 3 USD here. My friend grumbled and wondered aloud whether there were gold flakes in the food.

What to Buy: Unless you have tons of money to blow, nothing. But definitely go here to go clubbing or go to the cafes; you will definitely see a Korean movie star or two. I promise. =)

Itaewon: Itaewon has never been my fav, as many ex-pats, and more importantly, ignorant soldiers, go there to drink and act like a foreign ass. Not a fan. BUT, there *are* some goodies if you go there during the day. Go to the alleyway and you will see some really cute clothes for a good price. Also, if you go inside the building where Suji's is housed, there are a bunch of stalls that sell cute clothes. I bought this dress there for 30 USD. No foreigners ever go there, so you know it's a Korean secret. ^^

Itaewon has a vast amount of foreign-ish food. I say "foreign-ish" because it's the Korean interpretation of Western food. It's delish, and I recommend trying as many restaurants as you can. It's a different feel of Korea.

Whilst eating, I also recommend, during the day, walking around and looking at the outdoor vendors. What I've noticed is that many of them sell clothes that are "knock-offs" of brands such as Polo, Abercrombie, and by "knock-offs," I mean they are basically the same thing, but because of some defect or because they made too much, they sell it at Itaewon. Also, there are some funny shirts that I want to buy, but some are really NSFW.

What to Buy: Clothes and maybe a fake bag and watch or two if you are so inclined.

NOTE if you're a foreigner, they will be very aggressive in trying to get you to buy fake bags. If you want to, go for it, but I generally try to stay away. They scare me.

COEX: Above are offices and below is the mall. This is *the* destination for all Korean young couples. There is an Aquarium in one area and shops galore. There are also two hotels that anchor the mall, as well as a huge movie theatre. And it's all indoors.

I love this place because there is everything. They have boutiques and brands. The COEX has Zara, Roem, Uniqlo, and little boutiques that sell unique and different clothes.

What to Buy: Clothes and accessories. Walk around and look! Generally a lot of the boutiques have these "enticers," i.e. clothes in the front they are selling for 10 USD. It's fun to look and sometimes there are some hidden gems.

Here are some of the things I bought:

I got that top for 10 USD in one of those "enticers" and I got the skirt from Zuma, the best store, ever!

In my next post, I will post about some stores and venues to look for cute things in Korea. Until then, hope you enjoy this!


  1. Um, how much do I LOVE you for this post?!? If I ever get my butt to Korea, this will be my shopping guide. And how excited will I be to finally get to a UNIQLO?? I've been dying to go to one haha. thanks so much for this guide :)

  2. I'm so glad you like this post! I'm definitely going to update this when I go back this winter, because you KNOW I'm going to go shopping. =)

    Btw, we should totally meet up when you get to Korea; we can go shopping and eat!

    And, final note: did you know there is a Uniqlo store in NYC??? It's the only US store. You should have checked it out before you went to SD.

  3. I was just gonna say, "Michelle's gonna love this post." But she got here before me. haha :)

  4. haha ashley you know me too well. :)

    & Jane YES we should totally meet! I won't know a soul in Korea & I'm sure you'll know all the great places to eat & shop!! & Yes, I should have went to the Uniqlo store in NYC, but at the time, I couldn't afford to go bat sh*t crazy shopping, which would have happened if I had stepped into that store. lol.


Thanks so much for commenting! I always appreciate your thoughts. Much Love, Jane.