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Living in Korea | Korea’s Refund Policies May Not Be What You Expect

Updated: Sep 6, 2019

Have you ever bought a thing off G-market and then realized it wasn’t exactly the thing you wanted? Buyer beware, sometimes even when products have clear return and exchange policies stated, what it really means is you bought it – you keep it. Depending on where you are from, Korea’s culture of returning items can be quite different than what you expect.

Even when you buy things off of a large reputable site like G-market – they may not take responsibility when things go wrong. As with many popular online sites in Korea like Coupang, Interpark, 11st they are simply a place where 3rd party businesses sell their things. So when things go wrong, often times you need to contact the business directly to deal with issues.

When you contact G-Market they will sometimes be willing to talk to the vendor for you, but if the business is being unreasonable they won’t always advocate for you. They will tell you what the business said and that’s that. You are free to contact the business directly and deal with it yourself.

Even with policies clearly stated and Korean consumer protection laws on your side, if you ever have any questions regarding a product or service it’s best to ask questions in advance. And do it in writing. Because more often than not, what is said on the phone can easily become a misunderstanding on your part later. Meaning you must have misheard because let’s face it, there’s no proof the conversation ever existed.

In general, compared to other countries, it’s a lot harder to get refunds or even a sincere apology for bad service in Korea. Not that it’s impossible, there are good businesses out there that go out of their way to offer customer service. But it’s inconsistent because it’s not the business cultural norm that you might expect from American retailers like Costco, who will take anything back at anytime if you are unsatisfied for any reason.

Complain to and they will likely bend over backwards to make it right. Whether it’s offering a discount or a complete refund and something in addition, it’s just what you expect. To apply that same rule and expectation in Korea can easily lead to massive disappointment.

To avoid these kinds of uncomfortable situations, always read all the fine print carefully, ask questions to the business directly (in writing if possible), clarify other not critical details on the phone, and know what you are buying is what you really want. This legwork up front can save you the trouble of having to negotiate a return or exchange later.

If you can’t speak Korean well, using a bilingual virtual personal assistant service like Wonderful to assist with your purchases can be helpful. The assistants can ask all the questions you want in advance and even assist with the purchase transaction to help you avoid complicated payment systems. Send a message to try it out or visit for more information on how the service works.

Shopping in Korea doesn’t have to be difficult or frustrating, but it is important to know what to expect especially if you’re planning on making big investments.

If interested in our service, you can reach us on Facebook, Kakao Talk or Email.

Corporate program is available for companies with expat employees. For more information on this please email us.

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