Seoul Selection is a well known local institution. It is a coffee shop-cum-bookstore in the basement of a grey brick building near the Gyeongbokgung palace, just a few metres away and to the north of the Dongsipjagak watchtower.
The shop has pretty much every book written on Korean politics, language, culture and history and a good selection of contemporary Korean fiction translated into English.
They have a limited selection of CDs and DVDs as well as a fair number of second-hand books.
What to buy: English books
I got a pair of pants also and wanted them altered before I left. The guy said in the basement of a nearby building there was 밴딩/banding (Konglish for hemming, I gathered correctly). I thought I'd have to search the place to find one...but, in true Korean fashion, there were 7-8 down there. I just approached the one that was least busy and he got at it. The price was 4,000 won (3.60USD) and done in about 5 minutes. The guy I bought the pants from said it was 2,000 won but I wanted a cuff on it and was not energized to fight this guy for a couple of bucks (it costs 5,000 won for the dude to come to my apartment so what the heck).
What to buy: Here's a tip in negotiating: if you need alterations (basically all dress pants and suits) then ask them to discount the price of the item you're buying. It works A LOT. This guy (begrudgingly) gave me 1,000 won off the pants (a whopping 14,000 won total price) so even when they don't want to they usually do.
What to pay: 2,000 won for a normal hem, 4,000 for a cuff on your pants.
I walked in the FREEZING COLD for an hour and a half until the Markets opened so I could buy a Winter Coat ( just arrived from weeks in Malaysia,Singapore) Finally settled on a Down Filled jacket. It wasn't a Label I had ever heard of, but ended up being the BEST jacket I have ever owned. L.O.R. was the Brand, and I have had COUNTLESS quirries on where did I get that jacket. It only cost Me $10 CND.
What to buy: Korea is KNOW the WORLD OVER for it's Replica Products. Some are so GOOD that it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to tell the difference without having a data base to to cross reference the Serial
I have many friends who work in the Fashion Industry who swear by it, and they work for most of the BIG Labels.
What to pay: A fraction of the REAL Items Price
Not a shop, but basically a bazaar consisting of men's and women's dress and casual wear, shoes (usually Nike or Asics is a title brand) and kitchen/misc items that makes its way around Seoul throughout the year. Usually it opens at a particular location on a Thursday and packs up on the following Monday (after 10-11 days).
Finding one can be tough. There are usually signs in the area a week or so before the sale noting the time, location and main brands. If you don't understand Korean/Hangul just tear a sign down and show a friend.
What to buy: The deals are great, in most cases, but you have to know your quality and prices. I got a 675,000 won (USD 580) cashmere/wool overcoat for 150,000...that was nice. You can get shirts for 20,000-30,000; ties for 5,000 (poly) to 10,000 (silk) and suits that retail for 300,000 for cheap (I paid 350,000 for 2 suits with 2 extra pants each). Remember to haggle here. There is a 10-30% discount off their first price...and 60-80% off the retail price. (Best to bring a local or speak $$Korean to get the best deals.)
Be careful of the prices in Seoul. I never buy the first time I see something. If you think it is a good price, you probably can get it cheaper. I found that most of the souvenir shops prices vary a lot.
What to buy: The green vases that are traditional in Korea can be bought in Itaewon cheaper than anywhere else I have found. There is a small mall area near the Baskin Robbins where you can get the best prices and the merchants are a little agressive, but the prices are good.
What to pay: I bought the pair of vases for 25,000 won or about $22 USD.
This photograph is of the main modern shopping strip in Ch'onan. . .as you can see there is floor upon floor of shops. There was very little that was difficult to find in South Korea ~ I would do a bit of shopping for less common items in Seoul (cheese mainly) ~ but otherwise, the only problem you're likely to encounter is some trouble fitting the clothing of the very petite Korean men and women.
What to buy:
1. Ginseng candy / tea
If u can't afford Ginseng, then try to get urself some Ginseng candy or Ginseng tea instead. They are cheaper and taste great, though u can't expect much in terms of nutritious.
Chopsticks used by Koreans are slightly different from typical Chinese chopsticks. They are made of stainless steel, where as typical chopsticks are made of wood or plastic. The most interesting feature is, the sticks are flat at both sides, not rounded as of typical ones.
What to pay: Ginseng candy : 5000-8000won a packet with abt 60-80 candies inside. Idel as souvenirs.
Ginseng tea: abt 8000won a box with 50 bags. Taste great and presentable as gift.
Korean chopsticks: 500won a pair, comes in 5 or 10 pairs per packet. A friend of mine managed to buy 10 pairs paired with spoons for only 15,000won.
Most of the sales people spoke Japanese and English. They let you bargain.
What to buy: I bought a Korean Traditional clothes which I can use to attend parties. I purchased 4 leather belts for my officemate and it only cost like $25 US dollars.
What to pay: I paid $60 for the Korean Traditional outfit. I am not sure if it was a good price but for the material it is reasonable. Elle small suitcase that I paid for $90 last year at the Duty Free only cost $40 for an imitation in Korea and it looks the same. I wonder if the one I purchased is an imitation:(