Wonderful's Guide to Giving Gifts in Korea
Updated: Apr 21, 2021
One question we frequently get asked by our clients is what kind of gifts they should give to their Korean friends/colleagues for different occasions. As a foreigner in Korea, it can often be difficult to figure out what kind of gift you could give for different occasions. Considering the cultural differences, you definitely do not want to give a gift that would be misunderstood as an insult or that would give a bad impression to your boss or to your work mate. Additionally, showing that you put in the effort to find a gift that they would actually like is half the gift itself.🙂 Wonderful has put together this guide to help you in the process. If you need help purchasing custom gifts for any occasion, our assistants are always available to help.
Popular Gifts During Seollal
Traditionally, Koreans drink alcohol during Seollal as a symbol of good luck. (음복술), therefore giving fine traditional liquor or a bottle of choice wine might give a good impression. There are many brands of traditional alcohol to choose from makgeolli, soju, cheongju/yakju, takju etc. Our partner the Sool Company has a comprehensive guide on different types of alcohol that you can purchase online that we have linked here : Buying Makgeolli Online , Buying Takju Online, Buying Yakju Online.
That said, excessive drinking has been a social problem in Korea, so lately, more health conscious gifts have become more popular. Many Korean families now exchange Ginseng products or Ginseng extract gift sets, high end fruit sets, or even health supplements. Many online stores sell gift sets that include high end Korean beef, oranges from Jeju, or dried fruit sets. These sets typically cost 20,000 KRW ~ 100,000 KRW depending on the size or item.
Popular Gifts for Weddings
Wishing a friend a prosperous marriage with a thoughtful gift would be ideal when attending a wedding in Korea. One of the most iconic gifts would be the Korean Wedding Geese or Korean wedding duck. Gees are known to mate for life, which is why the goose has become the representation for a new prosperous marriage and never ending devotion between couples. Swans are also a welcome and graceful option.
You can check out some great wedding duck gifts from Joteta ( a Korean gift website).
Another common gift item for weddings is just giving cash. This has become more and more popular as it gives the couple the freedom to use the money as they see fit, and also goes to covering the costs for hosting the wedding. Many foreigners would ask how much they should give as a cash gift (or 축의금). Traditionally, the total amount is in odd units of 10,000 KRW. for example, 30,000 KRW , 50,000 KRW, 90,000 KRW, or 110,000 KRW, though some people give 100,000 KRW (split into two 50,000 KRW notes). This is because odd numbers represent good luck. It might be a good idea to purchase a save money envelope to go with your gift.
Popular Gifts for First Birthdate (Doljanchi)
Doljanchi (돌잔치) is the first birthday party for a newborn baby. This is a significant ceremony in a Korean family that seeks to bless a child with a prosperous future. Many Korean families would hold a party with a ceremony where the child gets to pick from carefully selected toys, which is taken to foretell what kind of person/career/future prosperity the child would get to have. Some gift ideas that could work here would be a baby hanbok, or baby clothes in general would also be great ideas. There is some flexibility here in terms of what would be allowed.
Popular Gifts for Chuseok
Chuseok is a Korean thanksgiving festival where people traditionally celebrate the harvest of the year. Most Koreans tend to meet with their families and honour their ancestors during this holiday, so expect delivery delays and gifts selling out of stores in the days leading up to Chuseok. It is therefore a good idea to purchase gifts in advance to avoid missing out, or having your items delivered a week late. Typically gifts of the season would be a basket of seasonal fruits, dried fruit gift packages, Hanu (or premium Korean beef), Spam and tuna gift sets, etc. Many of these gifts are typically showcased at supermarkets and many websites.
General Gifting Guide
With changing culture, there have been many new trends that are becoming more and more popular. Buying gift coupons (상품권) or a Culture Voucher (문화권) has become more popular as well. You can typically buy them physically at large department stores like Emart/Shinsaegae or Homeplus, or you can also buy digital ones online and have them delivered via SMS to your friends phone. Wonderful can help purchase and send digital and physical coupons to your friends/colleagues in Korea.
Another trend has been the rise of Kakao gifts/Line gifts. Kakao chat and Line chat allow for sending gifts to your friends, in the form of cash coupons at popular stores, or physical gifts of famous Line/Kakao characters. These are popular among younger Koreans. For the Kpop enthusiast, you can always get Kpop merchandise from platforms such as weverse or the Line store. Though these tend to sell out really quickly.
It would be worthwhile to check out Joteta.com, a Korean gifting service that specializes in making customized Korean gifts for delivery in Korea. The gifts are made to have a traditional Korean aesthetic that would definitely give a unique impression to your Korean friends.
Regarding our pricing, we charge for the time taken working on your request at 800 KRW/min (There is a 15% discount for first time users), and you can get a refund on the remaining time within 3 months. There are NO processing fees when you pay us via bank wire transfer. (You will pay only the cost of the item(s)). When we charge your bank card, there is an 8.5% processing fee that goes to the payment processor for their services. We do NOT benefit from this fee. For more information regarding our pricing, please follow this link.
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