South Korea



Keeping up with the latest trends, shoppers and boutique owners alike flock the streets and markets every weekend. centred largely in seoul with popular places such as dongdaemun, mok dong rodeo street and myeong dong, fashion centres can be divided into two large categories; markets and department stores. markets are affordable and each shop will have trendy similar type clothing that appeal to the masses. also, be aware that you cannot try on most tops. so better to know your size before shopping there. though department stores will have areas or floors that have discounted items, they are considered overpriced and catering mostly to an older, wealthier crowd.


At certain retail outlets with a "Tax Free Shopping" or a "Tax Refund Shopping" sign, you can obtain a voucher and get a large percentage of your taxes refunded. When you leave Korea, go to customs and have it stamped then go to the "Global Refund Korea" or "Korea Tax Refund" counters near the duty-free shops. However to get a refund you must leave within 3 months of purchase.

Bargaining is common at outdoor markets and applies to everything they may have to offer. However stating a monetary amount would be a mistake. Normally what you would say is ssage juseyo 싸게 주세요. That means "cheaper, please." Doing this once or twice would suffice. The drawback is you will rarely be discounted more than a few dollars.


Korea is the ginseng 인삼 insam capital of the world. thought to have medicinal properties, it is found everywhere in korea. in addition to ginseng tea and various foods flavored with ginseng, there are even ginseng-based beauty products. there are many grades of ginseng, with the best grades fetching millions of us dollars in auctions. a good place to check out the different types of ginseng include gyeongdong herbal medicine market in seoul.

Traditional items

Visitors looking for things to bring home can find a wide variety of choices. you can find a blue-jade celadon from the goryeo dynasty, handmade traditional costumes, paper kites and ceramic pieces that depict human emotions in their designs at the numerous markets and souvenir shops. insadong in seoul would be the first place to shop around. after a while one store might start to look like every other store but chances are you'll find what you need.


For all things considered antique, such as furniture, calligraphic works, ceramics and books, you can go to jangangpyeong antique market in seoul. be careful, as items over 50 years old cannot leave the country. check with the art and antique assessment office at 82-32-740-2921.


They are widely available, especially in larger cities like seoul and busan. korea has most of the latest gadgets available in most western countries, and much more. in fact, when it comes to consumer technology, south korea is probably second only to japan. however, you would probably have to contend with having the instruction booklets and functions being written in korean.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs)

Korea's greatest contribution to the gaming world. while they may not have been invented in korea, korean mmorpg's were a key factor in making the genre popular worldwide. unlike in japan, where their comics or manga are often made into cartoon serials or anime, popular korean comics, known as manhwa만화 in korean are often made into mmorpg's. however, all games sold will be in korean and for console games, the regional coding for korea is ntsc-j, which is used for japan, taiwan, hong kong and most of the rest of east asia, so you might not be able to play them on your european/australianpal, north americanntsc-u/c or mainland chinesentsc-c consoles.

Pop culture

South korea is the origin of the hallyu "korean wave" phenomenon that took east asia by storm at the beginning of the 21st century, so you might want to buy some of the latest korean drama serials or movies when in korea. fans of k-pop may also like to buy the latest korean music cds by popular singers such as dongbangshinki and super junior. however, drama serials and movies sold in korea are for the korean market and usually do not have subtitles. in addition, south korea is in dvd region 3 so the discs bought here would work well in taiwan, hong kong and southeast asia, but may not be playable by players bought in north america, europe, mainland china, japan or australia. if you wish to buy, ensure that your dvd player can support it.

The currency of South Korea is the won ₩, written 원 in hangul. As of September 2012, the exchange rate was approximately 1120 won to the US dollar.

Coins come in denominations of ₩10, ₩50, ₩100 and ₩500, while banknotes come in denominations of ₩1000 blue, ₩5000 red, ₩10,000 green and ₩50,000 yellow. ₩1 and ₩5 coins, while they exist, are very rare. The largest bill currently in circulation is only ₩50,000 US$45, €27 and somewhat uncommon in ATMs, which makes carrying around large sums of currency a bit of a chore. ₩100,000 "checks" are frequently used, and some of the checks go up to ₩10,000,000 in value. These checks are privately produced by banks, etc. which can be used as "c-notes".

A new series of notes was released in 2006/2007, so expect to see several versions floating around, and be prepared for hassles with vending machines which may not accept the new or old versions.

ATM are ubiquitous, but most Korean ATMs don't accept foreign cards, only Citibank ATMs ( and special Global ATMs do. These can be found at airports in some areas frequented by foreigners in major cities, including Hongdae, some subway stations, and in many Family Mart convenience stores. Sometimes however even the Global ATMs may not accept your foreign card so it's wise to have a second source of money for those times. Be sure to stock up on cash before heading to the countryside, and if you plan on staying in Korea for a longer time, you'll probably want to set up a local account at eg. Woori Bank, which can then be used at the bank's ATMs throughout the country even some non-local accounts can do this- for example, Woori Bank accounts set up in China come with an ATM card that can be used with all its ATMs in Korea.

Credit card acceptance, on the other hand, is very good, and all but the very cheapest restaurants and motels will take Visa and Mastercard.


Korea is fairly expensive compared to most Asian countries, but is a little cheaper compared to other modern developed countries such as Japan and most Western countries. A frugal backpacker who enjoys eating, living and traveling Korean-style can easily squeeze by on under ₩60,000 per day, but if you want top-class hotels and Western food even ₩200,000/day will not suffice. Seoul has been particularly expensive in recent years, by some measures even more so than Tokyo, but the current financial crisis has caused a big decline for the Won against the U.S. Dollar and Yen, making South Korea considerably less expensive for Western and Japanese tourists.


As a rule, tipping is not necessary anywhere in Korea, and is not practised by locals, although bellhops, hotel maids, taxi drivers and bars frequented by Westerners will not reject any tips you care to hand out.