English Bookstores in Korea
Independent Stores in Seoul
What the Book?
What the Book is possibly the most well-known foreigner bookstore in Korea. It isn’t cheap, but it has one of the best selections of new and used books in Seoul. They also have an online store and will specially-ordered books. Staff speaks English well.
The owner of this Itaewon bookshop used to dumpster-dive at the US army base, fishing out discarded books and then selling them to Korean university students off a wooden cart in downtown Seoul. Forty years later, this tiny shop has a permanent home in Haebongchong, and carries a large (albeit a bit cluttered) selection of English language books.
A branch of the Korean “Beautiful Store” non-profit organization, Beautiful Bookstore offers a few hundred English titles in their Hyewha location in Northeastern Seoul.
Seoul Selection Bookshop
Seoul Selection carries various Korean language and culture books, all in English - perfect for those looking to brush up on their Korean skills or do some reading about anything Korea-related. They also publish Seoul Magazine, and have an extensive online store. They’ll buy used books for 1,000KRW-2,000KRW a piece.
Independent Bookstores Outside of Seoul
Young Kwang Bookstore (Busan)
Busan’s Young Kwang bookstore offers a variety of fiction and non-fictional titles in English. Book topics include: Korean language and culture, classic literature, best-sellers, travel guides, and foreign language dictionaries. For those looking for a heavier read, Young Kwang also carries some English college textbooks, so you can brush up on your first-year Biology or Architecture. Young Kwan also stocks English-language magazines, including the Economist and Time.
Kim & Johnsons (Busan)
Known colloquially as “Kim ‘n’ Joe’s”, this English-only bookstore is the largest of its kind in Busan. While the focus of this store is children’s ESL material, a respectable selection of novels and college textbooks can also be found here. Store memberships are also available, giving buyers discounts of 10% to 20% off of their purchases.
Fully-Booked claims to have three main loves: “books, coffee and beer - not necessary in that order!” By day, this shop offers espressos, smoothies, paninis and a selection of over 2,000 used books. By night, bookworms can sip on imported beers and wines, whilst discussing fine literature or enjoying a heated game of Trivial Pursuit. Fully-Booked also has a consignment program, where you can trade in your used books for store credit or cash.
Buy the Book Café (Daegu)
Much more than just a used bookstore, Buy the Book also operates a vegan and meat eater-friendly café, with everything from deep-dish pizza and poutine to apple pie chimichangas. “Game of Thrones” showings are held Sunday nights. Other events include free monthly yoga classes, murder mystery dinner theatres, and clothing swaps. What more could you need?
Chungjang Bookstore (Gwangju)
This Gwangju English bookstore doesn’t have as large of a selection as some others in Seoul or Busan, but it stills offers a good range of titles, especially for those interested in learning Korean language.
Gwangju International Center Library (Gwangju)
While Gwangju International Center (GIC) doesn’t actually sell anything, they still offer over 4,000 different books that are free to borrow. Their library includes over 100 Korean language study books, plus over 500 English-language DVDs, CDs, and video tapes (if you happen to have a VCR!). You can borrow up to five books at a time for a maximum of 21 days. If you have any used English-language books, DVDs, or even old bookshelves that you need to get rid of before you leave Korea, you can donate them to the GCI.
The following bookstores are all competitors with similar English language book offerings. They are huge books stores that don’t just specialize in English, but instead carry a wide range of books in Korean and foreign languages. In addition to books and magazines, they also offer stationary, CDs and DVDs.
Kyobo is Korea’s largest book chain, with over 2.3 million titles in stock. You can always order in specific titles if you can’t find them in-store.
Bandi and Luni’s
While not as large as Kyobo, Bandi & Luni’s still offers a sizeable collection of English language books, including small sections on Korean Culture, History, and Cooking.
YP (Youngpoong) Books
YP has a selection of ESL methodology books with prices comparable to Bandi & Luni’s. However, if leisure reading is more up your alley, consider visiting Kyobo or What the Book.
English+ is a Korean chain of English-only bookstores. Most of the material is targeted towards young learners. However, English+ does offer a few books suitable for adults, mostly in the TOEIC and TOEFL test-prep subject area. They have 14 locations across Korea, including four in Seoul, three in Gyeonggi, and even one on Jeju Island. Detailed location and contact information can be found on their website.
BookinBooks is an online retailer, carrying a variety of English and Korean books, CDs, and DVDs. The whole website is in Korean, and you can buy either in Korean won or US dollars. They ship around Korea, so even if you can’t make it to Gyeonggi, Seoul, or Daegu, you can still manage to find some English language books. It calls itself “the Korean Amazon”.
Gabrielle interned as a Content Creator for Work'n'Play during her exchange trip to Chung-Ang University in 2012-2013. She graduated from Vancouver Island University in May 2014 with her BA in Global Studies. She is now a Master's student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, Canada. The things she misses most about her year in Korea are: going for makgeolli + jeon with friends, exploring Seoul's new and old hidden treasures and getting to practice Korean every day. You can connect with her on Twitter at @MsGabrielle or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.