In South Korea and mainly in Seoul, shopping is done at Department stores, outlet marts, traditional market, convenient stores, and other specialized shops. In department stores and outlet marts (Emart, Home Plus, Electronic marts, Costco etc.), you could find almost everything starting from food, clothes, toys, books, furniture, electronic items, and DIY items etc. In traditional markets you could find local food, ingredients, traditional clothes, traditional blankets etc.
Department stores open at 10:30 am and close at 19:30 or 20:30 (when promotion period). Outlet marts in Seoul open at 10:00 am and close at 23:00 or 24:00. Department stores are closed normally 1 or 2 times a month, generally on Mondays but during the promotion/sales campaign, they would open without closing. Outlet marts are closed 2 times a month and dates are depending on the mart. Traditional markets are opened all the time except the holidays of Chusuk (South Korean Thanksgiving) and Seollal (Lunar New Year holidays). Small shops opening dates can vary.
Apart from above there are special markets such as fish market, flower market, Dongdaemun market, Namdaemun market where you can find anything and everything including trendy stuffs and therefore they are also crowded by tourists.
Expatriates are shopping in the supermarkets located in the area where they are living, expatriate frequented area, and there expatriates and families can find goods they used to have in their own country.
There are called “foreign supermarkets” in the expatriate areas such as Hannam/Itaewon, Seongbuk, and French village. Japanese and Chinese communities also have some markets they could find their needed goods and so are other countries although they may not be very big places such as Hannam/Itaewon.
Expatriate families may purchase/sell items from other expatriates. They could visit the site http://seoul.craigslist.co.kr/ or simply refer to the board at Seoul Club or schools of their children where people advertise what to sell.
These days, many people do shopping online and Korea is not an exception. However, as a foreigner, to do online shopping is often challenging not because it is complicated in purchasing things online but because the platforms or sights offering these are far from perfect for foreigners, mainly due to language. Even the sights are claiming that English is supported, it is often hard to figure out what it really means and foreign users may have to ask the help of Korean colleagues to buy items online. Actually as long as you have your credit card and one item to purchase is not over KRW 350,000, it is not so difficult. If the purchase cost is over the said amount, you will need to go through the certification process which may be complicated. It will be improving by time for sure.
Last update: 20 February 2020