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Korea: The Shopper’s Paradise

Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. He has authored several books on a variety of topics including Archaeology


Shopping in Korea

Despite the troubles with their Northern kin, Korea is still a go-to place for a great vacation—especially for those who like to shop. Seoul has a wonderful mall, COEX, but it is always crowded, and parking is difficult. But there are other great areas where you can meet a shopping addict’s needs.

Yeoju Premium Outlet Mall

Korea may be a small country, but it does have a lot of big stores and malls. One of the best places to go shopping is in Yeoju. This is a small city about 25 miles east of Seoul, but it has one of the largest outlet malls you will see anywhere.

Yeoju Premium Outlet mall has big fashion name stores, like Michael Kors, and shoe stores like Adidas, Reebok, and Nike. If the men get hungry as their wives move from store to store, then they can rest in the food court which serves traditional Korean food as well as western hamburgers and other foods. Starbucks is outside of the food court.

Then if you need a break from shopping, all you need to do is go a few miles across town to the tomb of King Sejong. In the Korean royal dynasty, he is the most famous and revered king. He is credited with not only inventing scientific equipment but also with reinventing the Korean language.

Lotte Outlet Mall

If that isn’t enough to satisfy your power shopper, then a few miles north of Seoul in the Ilsan-Gyoha area lies the Lotte Outlet mall. To get there, all you need to do is follow the Han River. The western highway takes you right to it.

Again, you will find top brand stores selling everything from kitchenware and clothing to organic food. Then if you want to relax in the evening in your hotel room, there is a wine store that sells some of its stock at very discounted prices. They have some very expensive bottles of wine on hand as well.

If your shopping made you hungry, you can eat at one of the many fine restaurants on site. The last time we were there a Bennigan’s ruled the area. Or you can drive a little further north to the Tong-il area and find the most popular restaurants.

It gets a little crowded on the weekends and traffic is terrible, but the food is good and worth the price and wait.

Finely Tailored Clothes in Dongducheon

Just over an hour to the North of Seoul, there is a small city called Dongducheon. It is famous for housing Camp Casey and a host of other American soldiers. What makes this city unique is that you can get quality-made clothes, Italian boots and shoes, sportswear and other items at a reasonable price.

Because of the American presence in the area, there are also some great restaurants to eat at. The last time we were there, on any given day you could eat American-version Chinese food, Turkish food, Russian, Filipino, Mexican, regular American/Korean food and even a Subway.

Of course, you do not have to drive there. Line 1 of the Seoul subway system goes right past this area and has a stop at the southern end of the neighborhood. The only thing you have to watch out for are all the clubs in the area. They are not there to sell alcohol only.

A Bookworm’s Paradise in the Kyobo Building

If you do not want to do all that travelling just to shop, that is okay. In downtown Seoul, near Gyeongbuk Palace, is the Kyobo building. In the subfloors is a world-class bookstore with a western section comprised of English books.

These are not books on how to teach English, though those are there as well, these are books that cover a multitude of subjects. Science, religion, cooking, math, novels, books on both North and South Korea, self-help and much more.

You may find the book you were always looking for. But books are not the only staple on sale at Kyobo. You will find a vast DVD selection from classical to Rock to K-Pop. Also, you will find gadgets of all kinds and a variety of items you probably do not need.

The best thing about shopping at Kyobo is that it is possible to get a discount card. The card will help you save 10% on all your book purchases.

Itaewon: From Old to New

It used to be you could walk through this foreigner enclave and find discounted prices, tailors, and items you never thought were sold in public. Now the neighborhood has caught the attention of the Korean people and Itaewon has been changing to a more upscale site.

You can still get good shopping deals and even some great tailored clothes. For most foreigners teaching in the country, this was the go-to place for their weekend nightlife. You really have to experience Itaewon for yourself to see all the charm and beauty that is housed in such a small section of Seoul.

The Shopping District Where "Gangnam Style" Was Born

The shopping district that brought you Psi and his rap song "Gangnam Style". This is the upscale shopping area of Seoul. The only trouble is you have to walk long distances to experience it all.

Many top name brand stores have outlets there, including Kyobo. Their bookstore and building anchors the side nearest the Han River. You could spend a day looking through all the stores in this area and not see them all.

Plus, the area is littered with fine restaurants and western fast food outlets. You won’t go hungry as you shop.

Getting to These Shopping Paradises

Getting to Itaewon and Gangnam is as easy as it is to get to Donducheon. You just have to find the right subway line that goes to those neighborhoods. Each one has its own stop, so you won’t miss them. Just keep your eye out.

Travelling to Yeoju and the Lotte Outlet mall is not as simple. You may need to go on a tour or rent a car, which is quite simple, and drive there. Just make sure you bring an international license.

Korea may be the land of the morning calm, but it is a shopper’s paradise the rest of the day.

© 2018 David Thiessen


Cecil Kenmill from Osaka, Japan on December 12, 2018:

It's hard to talk about shopping without including the Lotte department store. Excellent article!

Liz Westwood from UK on December 05, 2018:

This is a good shopping guide for South Korea.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on December 04, 2018:

Thank you. I spent 14 years living and working in the country. There are also a lot of traditional markets you can visit along with Coex mall. Plus just north of Ilsan is a second outlet mall that draws a large amount of attention.

Korea is full of surprises

Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on December 04, 2018:

I know some people who go on holiday purely to shop. Although I would rather check out local treasures and try local cuisine, it's also good to know where you can take a look at local fashions and styles.

I would probably buy makeup there as Korean BB cream is the best makeup base I've ever used. Thanks for sharing; South Korea is definitely on my to-go list.

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