Furniture Shopping in Korea

Category : Surviving in Korea
Nov 28, 2014

You’ve finally found your new home in Korea and you’re set to snuggle down for the evening in your new bed—except you don’t have one. You have solved the problem of getting a house, but you haven’t yet furnished it so it’s not exactly livable. There are plenty of ways to go about furniture hunting in Korea. A few days later you can be happily curling up on your comfy couch or diving into your big brand new bed!

 

Stores

Like any country there are stores that sell furniture located all over Korea. Aside from individual furniture stores which are often expensive, your best bet is to check out the box stores of Korea: Emart, Lotte Mart, Homeplus and Costco. Costco is slightly different from the others in that it is a cooperative that sells in bulk. You need a membership to shop there. You won’t have to buy more than one couch at a time to get a reasonable price, but there may not be a huge selection. Emart, Lotte Mart and Homeplus all carry similar inventory and they scream “convenience”. These stores are multilevel box stores that allow people to one-stop shop. They have home furnishings and home décor, plus everything else you need to keep a happy home.

 

à Please see the articles, Box and Department Stores in Korea and Costco in Korea for more information.

 

Online

Koreans like online shopping just as much (if not more) than the next guy. Therefore, the internet should be one of your first stops. The only problem with internet shopping is language since everything is in Korean and not always in English. Don’t let that deter you from browsing the web. You will find a larger selection of goods at a much cheaper price. Plus, Korea has a super speedy postal service, which makes online shopping even better. You’re purchases will arrive within a day or two tops.

 

  1. GMarket is Korea’s main online shopping center. Save the actual house, you can buy everything else you could possibly need. GMarket has an English service and it’s straightforward to use: simply search, browse and buy! Make sure you know your address correctly to include in the shipping details.

 

  1. 11 Street is another popular online store and also offers an English website for foreigners. Keep in mind that not all sellers use English and it is helpful to be able to read a few words of Hangeul here and there to navigate the pages.

 

There are also loads of other internet stores that cater to furniture only; however, their sites are in Korean. If you don’t feel comfortable making online transactions in another language, get a Korean friend to help you out.

  1. I Love Company- This store carries tons of home furnishings at excellent prices.
  2. Kaare Klint- This shop caters to unique European style designs (think: IKEA).
  3. Auction Korea- This site is Korea’s EBay, so shoppers can bid for fantastic deals.

 

Handmade Furniture

Korea’s design scene is rapidly growing and artisans are coming out of the woodwork, so to speak. The best way to find homemade furnishings is to roam around the streets of your city. Craftspeople generally have small shops or showrooms and their pieces are made to order.

 

  1. Woodhenge Furniture Factory 601 is a cool social enterprise that is worthy of support. Not only do they make nifty wood furniture, they also give apprenticeship opportunities to underprivileged youth. They have a website which is translated into many languages. You can order pieces online or visit their workshop located in Gwangju, Korea.

 

  1. Frank Choi Furniture Designs are modern, simplistic and functional. Frank Choi has a website with English and a workplace in Seosan, Chungcheong Province –about two hours from Seoul. You can order his designs online.

 

  1. Taomina is a furniture design project that aims to create “cutting edge, commissioned pieces” while keeping an eye out for sustainable work practices. Their website is in English and you can browse previous works. Check out their contact details to place an order.

 

  1. Design Tour Seoul is a tourist initiative to promote design and craftsmanship in Korea. They have city tours that hit major design hotspots. In addition they have highlighted an area in Apgujeong, Seoul where many local furniture makers and home designers have set up shop. If you want a unique piece for your house, something from this neighborhood would be a great choice. Check out the English website to learn more about each store en route.

 

Antiques

An antique can add the finishing touches to a room, however getting genuine antiques in Korea can be difficult. For one, they are really hard to find. Secondly if you do find one, it could be difficult to take it out of the country because of laws that keep historical culture within Korea. As well, the criteria for buying antiques in the country are ambiguous and therefore your purchase could easily be rendered invalid.

 

To buy an antique the buyer must know about the history of the object, he/she must meet with an authorized antique seller and he/she must pay the real value (without bargaining) for the object. Rather than breaking the bank or having your special antique confiscated, opt for a realistic fake or a piece produced by a recognized cultural practitioner –a person the government has designated to make genuine copies of old crafts in the manner in which they were first produced. Dapsimni /닾심니, Insa-Dong /인사동 and Itaewon /이태원 all have plenty of stores selling excellent copies of old things and some do carry true antiques too.

 

  1. Dapsimni Antique Street: This street, lined with rows of antique stores, is the place to find a real antique. You’ll have to pay but it could be worth it. As well, if your search ends fruitless there are heaps of things that look super old. Go to Dapsimni Station on Line 5. Take Exit 2.

 

Used Furniture in Korea

Stores

There are some used furniture stores in Korea, but they aren’t popular. Koreans prefer new, modern, functioning things to tattered, banged up, discolored things. You can find good used stores in foreigner neighborhoods in Seoul – Itaewon, Gyeonidan, Haebangchon, Hannam and Hapjeong. These stores buy goods from people at a low price and sell them at a mark up. The mark up is often expensive and you’re probably better off to buy something new online than from a used furniture store. One benefit to used furniture stores is they all do same-day delivery so you won’t have to worry about getting that queen sized bed from the store to your bedroom.

 

Second-Hand Non-Profit Organizations

These not for profit organizations are worth a visit. You may be able to find some interesting furnishings and you’ll be helping the community at the same time.

  1. Korea has 12 Salvation Armies, mostly located in Seoul. You can purchase goods here or donate all your old things when you leave Korea. The money from the stores goes back into the community.

 

  1. The Beautiful Store is a non-profit organization that is similar to the Salvation Army. They have nine main initiatives to help the community focused on: environmental awareness, grassroots development, marginalized communities (homeless, ex-convicts and women), and fair trade. You can donate your possessions, money or time to the project and you can buy gently used furnishings and other things from one of two shops in Seoul.

 

Online

WorknPlay and other forums have postings for used furniture. You can browse the listings and contacts sellers to make direct arrangements this way. Keep in mind, you will need to call a mover to get your purchases from the seller’s home to your home and factor that cost into your budget.

 

The Streets

Many foreigners have success finding respectable furniture near garbage areas, especially in apartment complexes. Koreans tend to throw away gently used items instead of selling them. As the saying goes, “one person’s trash is another’s treasure”, so keep your eyes peeled for decent goods around your apartment block.

 

Relocation Services

Rather than starting over in Korea, you may want to move your things from back home. This is a good option if you plan to stay in Korea for a number of years or have specific furnishings you can’t live without. There are multiple companies that provide relocation services. Check out companies from your home country because prices and services will differ.

  1. Acerent is a Korean company that does relocation. They also provide relocation and have realtor listings in Seoul, in case you still need a house for your stuff. As well, they have furniture rental packages where you can rent furnishings for an entire room at a set price.
  2. Cortglobal is a US relocation company similar to Acerent. They do relocations to South Korea and they have a Korean branch. They also offer furniture rentals in Korea and they sell gently used furniture.

 

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Tags : Furniture. Shopping.

Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.

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