Korea has several box stores for you to meet your shopping needs. Like a Walmart Supercenter or Target, these stores sell everything from jeans to bagels to pets and auto supplies. Most carry international cooking ingredients as well, so you can stock up on some of that maple syrup or Heinz ketchup that you’ve been craving. Some stores even have takeout foods available, ranging from sushi to pizza. Important to note is that most Korean grocery stores no longer carry paper/plastic bags (or if they do, you’re going to be charged a few hundred won to buy them). Don’t forget to bring your own re-usable bags. You can also purchase some reusable bags for future use the first time you go there.
E-Mart, owned by the largest retailer in Korea (Shinsegae/신세계), is the most popular grocery store in the country. Shinsegae took over Walmart Korea in 2006, and then changed all of its stores into E-Marts. Today, E-Mart has 146 branches around Korea, which vary from “Express” (small, neighborhood stores) to regular (large, multi-level stores with parking). Lockers are available on site, so be sure to bring some coins if you want to leave some stuff behind while you shop. Their foreign food section was recently expanded into an entire aisle, where products are separated by region (including Mexico, US & Canada, Japan, and Europe).
àEmart Website (Korean only)
Featured Location: Yongsan I-Park Mall
Home Plus is the second largest retailer in Korea, after E-Mart. Offering many of the same things E-Mart does, such as groceries, home appliances, clothing, and other daily items. Make sure you have some change on you, as it’s 100KRW to use a shopping cart. Ladies, take advantage of the not-so-politically-correct pink parking spots for women only, many E-Marts have them. Most Home Plus stores are located around Gyeonggi-do, but there are two within Seoul (one in Mokdong and another in Jamsil). Home Plus stores 127, Home Plus express 268.
àHome Plus Website (Korean only)
Featured Location: Jamsil
Lotte Mart, owned by the Lotte conglomerate, is another popular Korean hypermarket. It has 102 branches around Korea. Make sure you don’t confuse it with the Lotte Department Store, which carries specialty items and designer goods. Lotte Mart is a good place to go stock up on cheap Korean snacks to bring back home. Some say that Lotte’s selection of food is better than its competitors, but you’ll have to see for yourself.
àLotte Mart Website (Korean only)
Featured Location: Seoul Station
Hanaro Mart is primarily a fruits and veggies mart. They sell other groceries as well but primarily the produce is cheaper than at other big stores. They have the most fresh selection of fruits and vegetables. There are 16 branches in Seoul.
Hanaro Mart Website (Korean Only)
Featured Location: Daechi
For a more upscale shopping experience, be sure to check out one of the following department stores in Korea. Browsing around these luxury stores is an experience in itself, as many intricate displays line the many floors. For those whose budget isn’t much higher than a croissant and a café latte, be sure to check out the food sections and cafes of these stores. Gourmet goods are expertly displayed; it’s as much of a feast for the eyes as for the taste buds. After getting a coffee and pastry, sit down among the Chanel-clad socialites and rich ajummas and soak up the expensive atmosphere before doing some more window shopping.
Shinsegae Department Store
Shinsegae is a favorite department store brand among many Korean celebrities; Shinsegae is often where new up-and-coming designers get showcased. Its flagship store in Myeongdong (a stone’s throw from the famous Myeongdong shopping district) is a relic of the Japanese occupation during the 1930s, when it was initially used as a Japanese store’s Korean headquarters.
àShinsegae Website (Korean Only)
Main Location: Myeongdong
Lotte Department Store
Lotte Department store is one of the best-known department stores in Korea. With 24 locations around Korea, Lotte’s flagship branch is also located in Myeongdong, Seoul. Shoppers can find international brands like Ralph Lauren and Gucci, as well as Korean brands in their “Young Plaza” section, which caters towards teens and young adults. For those with a smaller budget, Lotte offers a wider range of brands to browse, starting from mid-range to luxury.
àLotte Department Website (Korean Only)
Main Location: Myeongdong
Hyundai Department Store
The Hyundai Department store chain is slightly smaller than its competitors, however, it’s managed to use its space strategically, still offering many of the same brands. Not to miss is the extensive food court, which offers cheap, American comfort food (think: pizza, bagels), pricier European snacks (like specialty macaroons), gourmet Chinese and Japanese dishes, as well as specialty Korean goods. International brands like Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton can be found here.
àHyundai Department Website (some English)
Main Location: Apgujeong
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.