Where to buy K-pop & K-drama merchandise in Seoul

By Saturday, April 2, 2016 20 8

k-drama merchandise

S

o you’re going to Seoul and looking to score some awesome K-pop and K-drama merchandise, huh?

Then look no further than this guide to where to go, who you can find there and what kind of stuff you can buy.

Here we go!

Where can I find K-pop & K-drama merchandise?

In short:
Myeong-dong shopping area.

In more detail:
There are more locations dotted around Seoul (some of which we’ll go through towards the end of the article). But the greatest concentration of “hallyu shops” or “idol shops” selling K-pop and K-drama merchandise, in Seoul,  is in Myeong-dong.

You’re probably going to spend some time in this area anyway. (It being one of the most popular shopping areas in Seoul. You’d be crazy to pass it up!) So I’m going to start us off right here.

Start underground!

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3 of the stores in the subway shopping mall. 

If you go down Myeong-dong subway exit 5 or 6, from street level, you will see a cosmetics shop (“It’s Skin”) to your left. Turn left immediately after it and explore the underground shopping area. You will find a good selection and competitive prices right here.

When writing this article, in April of 2016, there were 4 shops selling K-pop and K-drama merchandise. 3 of these have been around for years. So the odds are good that they will still be around when you visit.

One of the shops here sells mostly K-pop CDs and soundtracks (not depicted above). Some of the best prices on K-pop CDs in Seoul, I hear.

 

Back up on street level…

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1. Right down the main street from the subway, next to a Dunkin’ Donuts.
2. Well stocked kiosk, right across the street from the first place. Next to a ZARA.
3. Stall found along another main street. (These will move and shift position.)

Explore the main streets first. You should be able to find 2-3 stores and stalls there. At least.

 

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1. Huge K-pop CD selection and merch.
2. Look up! Sometimes there’s good stuff on floor 2.
3. Or hidden in a section of a shop selling all kinds of knick knacks.

After you’ve been up and down the main streets; go explore the smaller streets. All the way from the subway towards the cathedral, and beyond. You should be able to find 2-3 more.

If you only find 3 stores or stalls in the entire Myeong-dong area… I’d say you haven’t looked hard enough. There’s more! But you have to keep your eyes peeled.

Sometimes you don’t see anything around the entrance to a store that hints that there may be K-pop or K-drama stuff inside. So look up! Sometimes you have to go to a second floor to find it.

Unfortunately I can’t provide you a map with the locations pinpointed. Google Maps doesn’t work well in the area and the street names can be confusing. So I hope that the pictures in the article can give you an idea of the kind of storefront to look for. This is what you should be doing anyway… Explore!

What kind of stuff can I  buy?

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1. Silicone bracelets, cut-out dolls 2. Pillows, coin banks, tumblers, posters 3. K-pop CDs 5. CD/DVD-cases 4. Mini notepads

Stores and stalls tend to offer an overall rough 50/50 percentage of K-pop and K-drama merchandise.

The most common goods include:
Keyrings, roll-up posters, regular posters, postcard & sticker sets (my personal favorite!), calendars, sticker sheets, pins, notepads, plastic folders, coffee mugs, drinking tumblers & coin banks.

You may also find:
Fans, fabric banners, concert memorabilia, pillows, pens, socks, photo books, mouse mats, jewelry, hair accessories, make-up or pen cases, passport covers, credit card holders, CD/DVD-holders, clocks, plushies, & compact mirrors.

CDs & DVDs
There are CDs, such as OST Original Soundtracks and official K-pop albums a-plenty. DVDs of concerts or dramas are more rare. Please note that you will most likely not find them subtitled in English.

Limited selection
It’s worth noting that the overall selection here in Korea is ironically FAR less than what you can find in, for example K-town in Tokyo. For the love of K-pop and K-drama: Don’t miss it in case you plan to visit Tokyo!

 

Who will I find related to K-drama?

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1. These postcard & sticker sets are a great souvenir (12 cards & 3 sticker sheets in each)
2. Stickers, CD-case, notebook/diary, calendar, mini-notebooks

In short:
Hallyu stars who are big enough to be popular in, and outside of, Korea. Apart from the Korean market; Japanese and Chinese tourists influence which popular stars you will find here.

In more detail:
You will only find the top male K-drama actors here. The easiest to find are, among others:

  • Hyun Bin
  • Jang Geun Suk
  • Ji Chang Wook
  • Kim Soo Hyun
  • Lee Byung Hyun
  • Lee Jong Suk
  • Lee Joon Ki
  • Lee Min Ho
  • Lee Seung Gi
  • Park Yoo Chun
  • So Ji Sub
  • Song Joon Ki
  • Song Seong Heon

So, basically the biggest or hottest stars right now. As well as some long time favorites.

You will find pretty much the same selection of popular stars in all of the shops. The stock revolves around 90% the same people, from shop to shop.

Once upon a blue moon – you may also find something related to a female star like Ha Ji Won, Jeon Ji Hyeon and Kim Tae Hee. But the overwhelming focus is on the male actors.

Oddly… some big stars have no merchandise.
I’ve struggled to find anything with Lee Dong Wook, for example. Have never found anything at all with Lee Jin Wook. It seems to be a matter of how their agencies choose to promote them. Some stars that would sell are simply nowhere to be found.

Who will I find related to K-pop?

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1. Official CDs and DVDs 2. As you can see the prices vary

Like with K-drama merchandise, you will most likely find the same groups, over and over, in the various idol shops.

Since I’m not a K-pop fan myself I must confess that there’s probably a lot of details that I’ve missed. However, this is a summary of what I’ve noticed.

You are most likely to find:

  • B.A.P
  • BTS
  • Big Bang
  • CN Blue
  • EXO
  • JYJ
  • FT Island
  • Infinite
  • Shinee
  • Super Junior

And perhaps some 2PM, B1A4, Beast, GOT7, TVXQ, VIXX, Winner and others.

Merchandise is sometimes available both for individual members and for the entire group. You may find individual members from EXO, Big Bang, JYJ & Super Junior for example.

To a far, faaaar lesser degree; there are some girl groups on offer.
For example:

  • APink
  • Girl’s Generation
  • Miss A
  • T-ARA

So… what will all this cost me?

Seoul can be pretty expensive, depending on where you come from. So if you’re thinking that you may have to give up food for a while or sign away your firstborn child in order to get your hands on some of this stuff… you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

It’s bound to cost less than what you pay for it when it’s imported into your country (thinking mainly of everywhere else, other than south-east Asia, here) or bought via a website.

These are some price examples (April 2016 – 1,000 won = $0.85 / €0.75) :

  • Calendar – 8,000-15,000 won
  • Keyring – 3,000-8,000 won
  • Mini notepad – 2,000 won
  • Pens – 5,000 won
  • Photo book – 6,000 won
  • Plasic folder – 2,000 won
  • Pocket mirror – 3,000 won
  • Postcard and sticker set – 3,500-5,000 won
  • Soundtrack CD – 10,000 – 25,000 won
  • Sticker sheet – 2,000-4,000 won

Again, since I’m not a K-pop fan I’ve barely looked at those CD prices. I’ve noticed is that one regular CD could cost 6,000-14,000 won and some fancy special edition, that’s signed by the band, could cost 100,000 won and up.
I have heard, from US K-pop fans in particular, that it’s a lot cheaper to buy CDs here. (Rather than back home, in a “Korea town” shop or via websites.) It’s vague information, I know. But that’s the best I can do since my shopping trips have been focused on K-drama merhandise.

What about shopping etiquette?

If you can’t find who you’re looking for; ask a shop attendant. They usually know a little English, in Myeong-dong.

A good tip is to bring a picture of your favorite stars, in your phone. Or a list of names, written in Korean, and ask if they have something with them. They might tell you “no”… but they may also dig into their stock and find you a treasure that’s not on display. So it’s worth making the effort and ask.

Please be aware however that telling you that they don’t have something is perceived as “loosing face” in Korean culture. Make sure you look around thoroughly first and only ask about your absolute must-haves, if you can’t find them.

If they don’t have the first thing on your list, or the second, or third… they might start to back away from you. This is because it’s embarrassing for them to have to tell you “no”. So, again, be as polite as you can. Apologize for asking and assure them that nobody else has this actor/group either… That might make them stay and listen to one more.

Other areas of interest…

Bukchon Hanok Village

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The two hallyu shops right next to the high school.

Next the entrance of the high school, at the top of the village (where “Goblin” and “Winter Sonata” was filmed), are two idol shops that are well worth visiting.

The selection is fantastic and the ahjummas who run them are super friendly and helpful. They don’t speak English but sign language and pointing will do. Highly recommended if you happen to be in that area!
(Which you should. It’s an iconic part of Seoul and the location for many movies and dramas, like Lee Min Ho’s “Personal Taste”.)

Insadong

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Combining traditional Korean souvenirs with hallyu mechandise.

Anywhere where there’s tourist and souvenirs sold… there’s also K-pop and K-drama merchandise, it seems.

Insadong is a great one-stop location for all of your Korean souvenir needs. And you will also find a couple of shops selling hallyu stuff here. They often combine souvenirs with actor and singer photos and calendars. The selection is not as good as Myeong-dong. But it’s definitely worth a look if you’re in the area.

You should be able to find 3 stores along the main street, at least.

K-star road

If you’re a K-pop fan you may have come across this area in your research… It’s supposed to be a street dedicated to the Korean hallyu wave.

Here’s what you need to know:
You won’t find K-drama merchandise here. At all.

K-pop fans however, have it made. Many big K-pop entertainment companies are based in this area. Management companies, like SM and JYP, have K-pop mechandise and K-pop souvenirs for sale. SM even has a supermarket where  you can buy everything  branded with K-pop idols. (Ramyun with EXO on it, anyone?) But I couldn’t tell you what they are like. On the day that I visited the area both SM and JYP entertainment were closed.

There are maps in the area that will tell you the location of the companies that K-pop fans should visit. As a K-drama fan you will find nothing but western luxury brands and K-pop street art in this area.

Namdaemun market

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Combining traditional Korean souvenirs with hallyu mechandise.

There are 3-4 stores in this market that are worth visiting. Their selection is as good as the best stores in Myeong-dong.
Some stores mix hallyu stuff with regular Korean souvenirs… and then there’s at least one that has nothing but K-pop an K-drama merchandise.

Namdaemun market comes alive at night with food tents lining the streets offering delicious street food. It’s an exciting traditional Korean marketplace to visit. Mixing ginseng sellers and ahjumma/ahjussi clothes stores with knock-off designer bags and shoes.

Be aware that if you plan to seek out these hallyu stores you should go in the daytime. They may be closed at night.

K-drama Addiction Therapy

pod cover artLastly, if you Googled and happened to stumble across this article;
You should check out our “K-drama Addiction Therapy” podcast! It’s a podcast all about K-drama.

You can listen to two K-drama addicted hosts discuss the latest K-drama shows (and old favorites) right here via the site, or download, for free, via iTunes.

 

Hope you enjoyed this guide and come back from your trip with a suitcase full of awesome stuff.
Fighting!

20 Comments
  • Angela Vue
    September 22, 2016

    Thank you so much for such massive information!

    • Sofia
      September 22, 2016

      Glad to help. Happy shopping! :)

      • puteri
        December 18, 2016

        hi! Is there any army bomb (BTS’ official lightstick) in those stores?

  • Rynn
    September 22, 2016

    Hello! What time do the kpop merch shops in Myeongdong underground close? Thank you!

    • Sofia
      September 22, 2016

      Myeongdong comes alive at night. Things really get kicking around there from 19 to 22 and beyond. So I think they’re open until the subway closes, at midnight.

  • Anna Marie Lauras
    October 24, 2016

    hi, can you tell me the exact address please.. thanks

  • Chel Ducabo (@heyyyymich)
    January 10, 2017

    Hi, do you still remember how much the fabric banner costs?

    • Sofia
      January 11, 2017

      Sadly I don’t. There are different sizes. We have small square ones. Suitable for making into pillows. And there are bigger banners. None of them were hideously expensive, as far as I remember. I bought a big banner one, with Lee Min Ho on it, for a laugh. It couldn’t have been very expensive for me to do that. 😉

  • Ria Magbaleta
    January 28, 2017

    Hi Ms. Sophia! I just wanna ask where do you think is the best place to go if I want to buy official kpop mechandise? :)

    • Sofia
      February 10, 2017

      Official K-pop memorabilia can be found all over Seoul. In the shops that I mention in the aricle.
      There is even more in the brand stores for each company. “SM Town” in Gamngam, for example. They have an entire store just for SM Entertainment’s artists.

  • Dalila Nurqifthiyyah
    February 10, 2017

    Hi Sophia! Do you know if there are BTS lightstick in the shops?

    • Sofia
      February 10, 2017

      I’ve seen lightsticks in some of the shops that I’ve mentioned above. Especially in the ones that focus on K-pop, of course. Record shops also ususally have some.

      However, if you’re going to be able to find a specific lightstick is a lottery. You never know what you’re going to find, from day to day.

      Unless Big Hit Entertainment has a brand store/official store (I wouldn’t know) I would seek out record shops and hope for the best.

  • Ian Cezar Yap
    February 11, 2017

    Do you have an article on what to do for first time travellers who are avid fan of kdrama for 5 days to south korea?

    • Sofia
      February 13, 2017

      Sadly not. I have tons of photos and tips from my visits to K-drama locations. But I haven’t had time to write articles on it.
      I hear that there are K-drama location guided tours that you can go on. I haven’t been on one myself, so I can’t speak for the quality. But it could be worth googling or asking a Tourist Information agency about, once you get there.
      Have a good trip!

  • Ian Cezar Yap
    February 11, 2017

    And thanks for this wonderful article :)

  • Jenny
    March 21, 2017

    Just wondering, do they sell clothes? As in printed shirts, printed jackets, etc. Also, how is haggling perceived by the shop keepers there?

    • Sofia
      March 21, 2017

      Clothes are generally not sold in the places I mention above. There’s not a whole lot of it that I’ve seen in other places either.

      Your best best shot for t-shirts and jackets would be the official goods stores that companies have set up. Like for example the “SM TOWN” store in Gangnam. But the selection is very limited and expensive. I honestly think you’d get a better selection and value for money online.

      Haggling is common and even expected in the more old fashioned markets. Like Bukchon and Namdaemun… In Myeongdong and Insadong however; it’s all about quick shopping and huge amounts of people coming through their store every day. They are less open to it.

  • Abigael Tria
    April 1, 2017

    Is there a lightstick selling?

    • Sofia
      April 5, 2017

      In some shops in Myeong Dong (record shops and merch stores) they have a few lightsticks, yes. The supply however is always limited. I wouldn’t bet on the one you want to be there… or to be less expensive there than online.

  • Cinthia
    April 22, 2017

    Hello! I would like to know if there is a store of the type that sells used albums, I would like to buy an album that is already sold out, but maybe in stores that sell used ones you can have, do you know any?

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