Trustworthy Korean online shopping sites are a lifeline for those who yearn for newest Korean fashion, cosmetics, clothes, or something a bit more traditional like Korean food, books, stationery and crafts – but don’t live in Korea or close to a Korean community.
Since I’ve spent last four years struggling with finding reliable Korean stores with cheap shipping and wide variety of items, I gained valuable experience along the way and decided to help those following in my K-shopping footsteps by compiling a list of Korean online stores in English with international shipping:
By far the largest Korean online shopping mall. It has an amazing range of products, basically anything you can think of, and prices are usually the lowest since it’s so popular that there are many sellers selling the same items and fighting for customers. The way Gmarket works is that you make an order from each seller, somewhat like Ebay which owns Gmarket now, but then all the sellers send their packages to one central Gmarket Warehouse where they all get collected and put in one larger box and shipped to you internationally.
When Gmarket’s English site started out it only had the most rudimentary translations, but over the years it became far more user-friendly for English speaking customers. Recently even a How to Use Gmarket guide has been published. Unfortunately, descriptions for large majority of products are still in Korean language. (>>see our post How to Learn Korean)
Another downside to Gmarket is that Korean sellers don’t pay much attention to what they input as item weight since customers pay flat-rate for shipping anywhere in Korea, but for us international customers this can be a serious issue. If the weight is not correct, either you are going to initially pay enormous shipping fee and then you’ll have to wait for them to weight it in the warehouse and send you a refund, or you’ll pay too little and get shocked when you get request for extra payment.
- Take a day or two to learn to read and type Hangul. Even though item names have been translated to English most of the descriptions have not, and being able to type Korean text will help you even if you don’t speak Korean. You can just dump it all in an automatic translator to help you select the item option you want (for example a color or something).
- If you can’t seem to find the item you are searching for, try searching for it in Korean (despite everything seemingly being in English). For example, I find that if I type “스티커” instead of “sticker” I get more results.
- Keep an eye out for the blue airplane icon because that signifies international shipping is available.
- Gmarket has a wide range of discount points and coupons you can collect in various ways, such as by a lucky draw or by writing a review. However, rarely does it amount to more than a dollar or two, which is not surprising since prices are already so competitive.
- Make sure you pay attention to seller reviews, marked by the gold stars. In moments of desperation I ordered from badly reviewed sellers and in those cases I also got my items just fine, but you never know.
Incredible range of different Korean products available. I suspect you can get anything here that you can get walking around in Korea. Since Gmarket is such a power-user EMS prices are 26-28% cheaper for them than if an individual person shipped something from Korea using EMS. EMS is their only shipping method for most of the world (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore have the additional option of SF Express). Most item descriptions are in Korean. Weight estimates can be seriously off.
11st is in every way very similar to Gmarket. Sellers (often the exact same ones you see on Gmarket) list their merchandise, you pick what you want to buy, it gets sent collectively to 11st Logistics Center and from there shipped internationally via EMS. In my experience Gmarket has a wider range of items than 11street, and a better English search function (if that’s possible). On the other hand, 11street’s overall site English seems to be better and they do have a wide selection of items. A plus that 11street has over Gmarket is that they often offer shipping discounts, sometimes quite substantial ones, and for us who live far from Korea and are used to paying the same for shipping as for the items themselves this means a lot.
If the shipping cost estimate is severly off they will either refund you through the same way you paid or ask you to pay more for the difference. If you decide to cancel the order at this point you will get all your money back minus the local shipping cost which is usually in the range of several dollars. I ordered from 11st several times and everything went smoothly too. 11street also has a shopping guide in English, Japanese and Chinese.
- Basically same tips that go for Gmarket go for 11street too. Using Korean will almost always give you better search results so take a day or two to learn to read and type Hangul. For example, searching for popular Korean textbooks published by Ewha in books category returned 0 results while 이화 gave more than 900 results.
- Keep an eye out on shipping discounts on 11street. They can tip the scales and make ordering from them the cheapest even when the item prices might be higher.
Large number of different Korean products available. Common shipping discounts. EMS is their only shipping method for most of the world. Item descriptions are in Korean. Weight estimates can be seriously off.
(not to be confused with Interpark Global) is the newest shopping mall I used. When I saw they had economy shipping available I was overjoyed. It was only half a year ago, in September 2015 that they added ePost, Korean version of Air Parcel, to the available options of shipping methods (packages under 2kg only). It is also similar to Gmarket, with unfortunately smaller selection of items, but the economy shipping made it my number 1 shopping destination.
Despite Gmarket and 11street havng more to chose from, Global Interpark still has an impressive range of products, from Korean makeup, skincare cosmetics and other beauty products, to Korean calligraphy supplies, Kpop merchandise, home décor, snacks etc. Right now there is even a promotion with free International shipping for selected items. Sadly books seem to be missing from their assortment which is a big minus in my eyes since it’s my favorite thing to buy.
Just like in the other online malls Korean sellers input weight estimates that are way off. Usually it’s 5kg for an item that doesn’t weight more than 0.2 kg. This is even more serious issue when you consider that ePost has the weight limit of 2 kg and the packaging itself usually takes about 0.4 kg out of that. However, I discovered that you can just contact Interpark at the bottom of their Customer Service page once you register for the site and simply tell them the item and the seller, and ask them to update the weight information (make sure you don’t include any links in the message or it won’t get sent. I found this out the hard way waiting for their response for days and wondering what happened). They always updated weight for me in less than 24 hours and I could continue shopping without further delay.
- Don’t give up if the item weight is too much for economy shipping. Just send a message to Interpark and ask them to recheck the weight.
Economy shipping (ePost Korea) Weight estimates can be seriously off (contact them!).
Few weeks ago I used this store for the first time and to my delight discovered it has recently been taken over by Hugh from My Korean Husband blog. I wanted to order several Korean textbooks which gave me anxiety right away because books are HEAVY. To make matters worse, two of those were really difficult to find which meant I was stuck with large Korean online shopping malls which only offer EMS shipping. But imagine my excitement when I found out that you can simply e-mail HeyEonni, tell them what you want and they ship it to you internationally for cheapest price possible.
Another thing I really liked about this shop is that they don’t wait for all the items. As soon as they have something in stock they will ship it to you. That way, even though one of those three books I ordered was not available right away I received the other two anyway and could enjoy them while waiting for the third one.
You get the photo of your package before it is sent. Cheapest shipping option available. I only ordered there once, and so far couldn’t find anything negative.
For the longest time I ignored K-pop stores since I’ve never intended to purchase any K-pop merchandise, but then I discovered that that’s not all they sell. They often also have Korean cosmetics, food, snacks and even Korean language textbooks! Since they are specialized for shipping outside of Korea they offer various forms of shipping which means you are not stuck with EMS. The most popular stores seem to be Kpoptown, Kpopmart and Ktown4u but I can’t say much about them so I suggest searching for Kpop online shop reviews to decide which one to use.
Various shipping methods available. Not many items available other than Kpop merchandise.
I tried to keep it short and succinct as possible but if you have any questions about any of these Korean online shopping sites or buying things online from Korea let me know below in the comments. Share if you have a favorite Korean online shop.