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.
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.)
There are many areas where you can get knock-offs in Seoul. Most notable for fashion articles are Dongdaemun Dongdaemun Stadium Station, Line 2,4,5) and Namdaemun (Heohyeong Station, Line 4) as well as Myoungdong (Myoungdong Station, Line 4).
Tech items can be found at Technomart (in Guui-Dong at Gangbyeon Station, Line 2) and Yongsan Electronics Mart (Yongsan Station, Line 1).
Of course, there are also travelling sellers who operate out of trucks, cars or road-side 'shops'. This is where some real bargains are...but buyer beware, there is little chance of finding them again, let alone a refund.
What to buy: One of the most blatent examples I saw was right in Yongsan Electronics Mart. The movie Troy had just come out in North America and had not even come to Korea. I enquired about it and the seller said, "it'll be here next week...same price, 7,000 won" (USD 6) for the DVD.
What to pay: Prices vary, a lot. I looked at the new LV ladies wallets in Myoung-Dong and got 3 prices from 3 vendors within 3 blocks of each other: 45,000 won (USD 40), 50,000 and 65,000. It pays to shop around, buy multiples to get a discount, note any real or imagined flaws and, above all else, wait, wait, wait for the seller to lower their price. Use the pregnant pause to your advantage, it's usually good for a 2% - 10% extra discount.
What to buy: Shopping in Seoul is expensive, no doubt about it. Many items, especially those on the streets are overpriced. Also, not many items are native unless you'll buying kim-chi, artwork gingseng or a plastic surgeon;p Even in terms of fashion, they have a long way to go compared to Tokyo or Hong Kong. Nonetheless, if you insist on shopping, you're better off going to local shopping areas like MyeongDong than going to a touristy district like Itaewon. Aim for stores where you'll see lots of locals and where items are price-tagged to avoid getting fleeced. See my section on night markets.
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.
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
If you are looking for cheap stuff in Seoul, you can check out the 1000 Won shops whereby all items in the shop are only at 1000 Korean won each (but don't expect luxurous items here). There is one 1000 Won shop located at the Myeongdong area along Choongmuro-2-ga street near to the famous Sejong Hotel.
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.
In case you ever get a need for a new book during your stay in Seoul, check out one of the following stores:
2. YP Bookstore
The main branches for both of them are located in Central Seoul and offer a huge variety of Korean as well as English and Japanese books. Kyobo also offers a limited selection of French and German books.
What to pay: -
Tip 1: You can't always count on it but from my experience YP turned out to be slightly cheaper than Kyobo for English books.
Tip 2: Look through the stack of books and check out the prices on the back cover. Depending on the import date and respective exchange rate, books do NOT always carry the same price tag. It's well possible that you find a cheaper tag on the very same book just down below.
The East Gate Market is a traditional market that caters to a wide variety of shopping needs from food to clothing, household items to beads. We had the honor of spending a day shopping with fellow VTer JCKim who traveled two hours into Seoul to meet us. He guided us to the East Gate Market and took us to some of the cities famous sites.
What to buy: The major objective of this shopping trip was to purcahse a Hanbok for my wife. We wanted a traditional outfit that was not a tourist trap, off the shelve item. Mr. Kim helped us find a booth among the hundreds at the market. My wife picked the material for her outfit, was measured and was treated with the respect of royalty. We picked up the finished product a week later and it is a beautiful reminder of our trip to Korea.
What to pay: We paid $370.00 (USA) for a hand-made silk Hanbok. I'm not sure if it was the best price but I do believe it was a fair price.
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
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.
Kyobo Bookstore is Seoul's largest bookstore, perhaps the largest in the nation. It features a great section of English language books of all kinds. Business hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, up to 8 p.m. on most Sundays, closed every second Sunday
Other bookstores in Seoul include Youngpoong Bookstore (Jongno), Jongno Bookstore (Jongno), and the Jinsol Bookstore (Gangnam).
What to pay: Kyobo is more expensive than Amazon.com
The Shinsegae Department Store is a famous department store chain in South Korea. As far as I know, one outlet is located at Namdaemun area (next to the Namdaemun flee market) and another one is at the Seoul Express Bus Terminal (south of the Hangang River). Being a huge department store, it sells almost everything from clothings, cosmetics, shoes, toys etc to food and supermarket at the basement area.
A collection of greenhouses near the AT Center, south of Yangjae.
Individual sellers are located in booth areas inside the greenhouses, each specializing in one or many different species of flower.
Prices are good, and there is room to bargain.
Located beside (south of) AT Center, in Yangjae, near the Hyundae/Kia headquarters.
It is now a short taxi ride south of Yangjae station on orange line subway, but there will be a subway stop located at AT Center when the new Bundang/Gangnam subway line opens shortly.