there are many kinds of On-Line Shopping Malls in Global CyberSpace . and because it is on air : participants are more careful for things or people they cannot see, making it harder to lure someone . further-more the ante is up in Korea where its citizens are highly educated, but again the crooks are too . enter a vital fact : South Korea is pretty new to consumers rights and the Shopping Malls run by large conglomerates sometimes make very convincing tricks . but they have chosen to offer reliable customer support especially to ease-up disbelieving older generations without whom (Cable-TV) Home Shopping Channels and (Internet) On-Line Shopping Malls wouldn’t have spread as much as it has over the Millennium . stand at the entrance of any larger apartment complex and you’ll notice courrier and delivery vans coming and going throughout the day, Saturday included . so in the end it is the venture capital-powered underdogs and second-hand (used-items) markets you have to watch out in cyberspace .
[ USED ITEMS ]
an honest-sounding person swears by God to send you a popular item and does otherwise . unless you access one of the handful of community forums where expatriates buy & sell used items, whose scale is very small, you will be going through a friend or co-worker who will read & type Korean for you . there are several used markets On-Line, validity shifting as new ones emerge, and some dedicated to certain line of products, from a memory card to actual automobiles .
here malicious people log-on from far rural areas with an immensely popular product in-hand, with their own reason for needing the money, NOW . lots of people have been “had” this way, so larger sites now has an “escrow” option . times haved changed since earliest auction site, and now roughly a half of items are new . where smaller vendors have set up shop to do their selling here for the rather simple purchase and payment system .
in the course of developing into an I.T. Power, Korean CyberSpace is full of user-communities usually referred to as “clubs” such as those dedicated to Sony Vaio NoteBooks, etc. these clubs, but many others with stand-alone domains . and it is safe to buy from other members here for the numbers of members are smaller, sometimes required to list self-photo, phone number, or even Alien Registration Number on sign-up .
[ On-Line Shopping Malls ]
I highly recommend you buy everything On-Line in Korea, aside from fresh grocery for the picture of that medicine man selling ANYTHING with pure lure of words .. is still witnessed, and any backlash of exchange or refund is scared-off with shouts and threats . ditto the old-story of the cab driver rear-ending into a house-wife’s car, then making a scene for himself in the middle of the road .(but once we saw this thirty-ish lady of small posture, shouting even louder, pushing the cab driver who was then lost for words)
other than instances when I mention “Department Store” where they mostly belong to a larger AND stable Conglomerate, those individual booths renting out spaces in virtually ALL of the Electronic Districts or Shopping Malls fall into this caution-zone with very few exceptions . another positive hint is if the store has several branches : where they will have enough to cover the loss, or have the power to return the item to its supplier .
so why go to the actual stores ? to see for yourself and try it in your hand for 1.size matters when going mobile like PMP Portable Movie Players, and 2.operation procedures are a very personal taste such as Electronic Dictionary. try to find a crowded counter where someone else is trying your favourite model and try it on the side, for most salespeople will balk at you if you ask tons of questions and don’t buy . this gets more “civilized” in Department Stores but some of those nasty looks still remain . try all the knobs .. and don’t buy .
On-Line Korea there are largely 3 types of Shopping Malls :
- large “Internet Shopping Malls”(as pronounced in Korean) run by a large company or Conglomerate usually in conjunction with Cable-TV Shopping Malls of the same name
- mediating “Market Place”(as pronounced in Korean) where they rent out on-line space to those selling, even individuals
- independent sites which is usually an on-line version of their existing store in the real world
first, you can forget the  above unless they have a trustful track-record in a specific range of product . for example a few sites specializing in digital cameras were good in offering everything related within a competitive price, but the advent of price-comparing sites scattered frugal shoppers and many have gone under .
and the worst-case scenario heaps from  above where it is convenient for the seller since the Mall rents out its space with an working system needed to sell merchandise . however when it comes to exchange or refund time : they all thrust responsibility on each other and it is just not worth the time to go through them .
then comes the conglomerates with prompt exchanges and refunds, no questions asked – for those from the States this is how it always should be .. but a developed nation all did in various steps and some left out the civilized, consumer-oriented one . in Korea it all began before the Internet : in the mid-90’s when Cable-TV began linking the nation, each conglomerate opened shop with convincing sales-pitches, AND because the first fear of buying without touching was “what if I don’t like it ?” they offered immediate exchanges & refunds . it really was the only way to go via Cable . couch potatoes too, but their faithful followers were newlyweds, because the young here usually stay at their parents’ until getting married, and when bells rang they had lots to buy . and this grateful practice carried-on when the same companies opened Internet Shopping Malls and had to compete just like on Cable .
(oh and the greatest moment in Korean family culture is Marriage – a time when tons of dowry exchanged and when even the attendants have an excuse to buy new clothes and friends & relatives cash-in to set them up a sweet-home : rule-of-thumb goes like .. groom’s parents buy them an apartment, after which the bride’s parents order furniture, and friends chip-in for house-hold electronics)
I accentuate the importance of exchanges & refund terms because especially in Electronic Products, and more-so the ones with fragile LCD screens big-or-small, chances galore on more things going wrong before or after purchase . if your Korean friend or colleague is uncomfortable doing this for you, they surely will have a sister or aunt who’s nicknamed “Internet Shopper”. (another advice on buying electronics, especially with LCD monitor or TV and notebooks : leave them on continuously for at least a week then the next week boot them up several times because if something is to go wrong chances are it will during this initial phase)
the next important clue to look for in any On-Line site, is the inquiry post board OR buyer’s review forum . some site have this as a separate forum, while others have this portion contained IN each product’s sale page .
[ On-Line Shopping Malls : The Biggies ]
from here-on the order in each category of my recommendation :
these mediating Malls, although well-known better be avoided because it is noted on every page AND mentioned while consulting on the phone that they only rent-out (cyber)space and any problems should be solved with the actual seller . thus they only provide space and payment systems . you can get around this legally because you are paying the Mall but save your time for there are may other options than :
the former even has English menus with one or two foreigners employed for the translation & service but not worth it unless you talk to them personally and have everything clear prior to purchase .
not much can go wrong with following sites run by large companies . some have extra 5% off on ShinHan or SamSung credit cards and extra 5%~10% mileage points on certain items :
http://www.cjmall.com : had 3-months recovery insurance on selected products even if you drop a notebook !
http://www.lotteimall.com : periodically offers same-day delivery on selected products
these run by telecommunications companies and government subsidiaries are still alright . especially the last two from the Agricultural Department and the Post Office sell pleasant traditional products for your souvenir back home :
[ Super-Marts ]
On-Line version of Korea’s real-time super-marts with the usual exchange & refund policy as their Cable-TV and Internet Shopping Malls above .
heavy bottled water usually limited to 6~12 for each brand .
usually charges W4,000 for delivery unless totals more than W80,000 .
same-day delivery only in vicinity of one of their existing branch stores :
with many imports and best on-line service of the 4, with 3 time-slots to choose daily – paid choice of plastic bag or cardboard box, or else delivered in their own basket to be unloaded .
do not have same-day service, only next-day onwards like Home Shopping Malls in boxes
although offering 4 time-slots you have to order almost 12 hour in advance .. should do better – delivered in giant plastic bags where everything gets tangled .
not much imports and Southern Busan (Pusan) region only but very active within with expedient delivery .
[ On-Line Specialty Stores ]
then there are more, but mediocre at best AND worst . oh there are a few sites specializing in purchasing foreign goods for you through their foreign address, mostly the States and Japan, but you can ask your mom to do that ! now for the sites specializing in certain range of items :
German catalog shopping offers some interior furniture and clothing not seen on local sites :
and sorry : Scandinavian furniture chain IKEA has not landed in Korea yet, NOT as in one big store, but available in bits & pieces through price comparison sites above .
one place where foreigners can relax and even meet people is in the English section few larger bookstores . but did you know they’ll ship most publication in a week from the States too ? (like-wise from Japan and Europe) I am listing several because if they have it in-store : no need to order from abroad . same book prices vary .
http://www.bookpark.net (specializing in graphics & design)
http://www.dnbooks.com (although they supply KyoboBook above they’ll get annual subscriptions for the rarest foreign magazines)
lone city living has brought pets into mainstream living . dog items are plenty at price comparison sites above, so for the cats :
if you are from Paris, Seoul has a bird market at DongDaeMoon (East Gate) to the East of CheonGaeCheon Road before you cross over onto the wholesale clothing area .
on special occasion they are a saviour sending cakes and flowers on appointed time AND fresh !
http://www.cakecall.co.kr : even heart-shaped ones for your anniversary !
http://www.flower119.co.kr : from a bundle of roses to congratulatory trees for grand-openings
and for those home-sick : Dell Computers available through their Korean servers, where phone service is wired through the Korean-speaking region in N.E.China, and product support contracted mostly through Korean TG Sambo Computers . 24″~27″ Dell LCD Monitors has been popular in Korea for a while and NoteBooks has been gaining momentum recently since they got lighter in weight . it is a joy you can even pick the parts even on a notebook, plus your selection of extended warranty, then will be put together in China and delivered to you in a week~10 days . yeepee ~
[ Independent Stores ]
all the above is a mighty long AND varied list, but there comes a time when they just don’t sell the model you are seeking or might really concentrate on a single range of products such as printer ink, normal battery, light bulbs, hardware tools .. sorry, I wish I had the time to list all of’em . chances are they supply some of the general shopping malls above . the one most important factor in deciding to buy from these sites is whether they have a customer post board where even non-members can participate . if they don’t have it or they have spam posts for the past few days : move on . if they have a post board, check to see how frequent the posts are and if the administrator is answering each one of them .
[ what NOT to buy On-Line ]
short of the age of cyborgs and light-travel : no there is a limit to the things you can, or rather should buy on-line . yes those conglomerate shopping malls on the top of this page offer no-questions-asked exchanges and refunds but save your precious time .
- fresh groceries where you really have to check for yourself
- clothes and shoes where you have to check in the mirror for fit AND looks
- furnitures absolutely has to be checked in person for the looks AND durability
[ On-Line Shopping Malls for Foreigners and Expats ]
it really is such a pity this advanced nation do NOT have a wide variety of service available to foreigners and expats, let alone for visitors and tourists . God~ just look at the available maps : awful awful ! even the handful of site that does the shopping for you from CostCo do not have English menus – yawn . well what can I say except the 2 options barely surviving for business :
although a known site among Koreans as a “mediating” market lending out space for vendors with payment system intact, and leaving out to work out the rest between buyer and seller . not recommended . even after they sought to emply an expat or two to head the ‘English’ menu the verdict is still out . for last year there was news that a customer was surprised to find additional tax involved when receiving the merchandise .
an aspiring site began barely July 2008 with hopeful news . but the site has been gradually closing off items to the point now only has Internet Service Prodivers and a handful of cell phones available – the very two service and item that pays clear commission .
I earnestly advise you to befriend a local who can read Korean so that you can enjoy a big slice of one of the grandest joy the Technopia today can offer . it really isn’t that hard . for starters you can ask a simple question to the next table at the tiny restaurant in iTaewon .. but despair not, for you can get by with groceries at one of the several foreign-friendly supermarkets listed on my Ghost Markets and Duty-Free Shops Page, and you can get second hand household items from classified sections in a few expat forums and communities .. for a while
- Korea Expat Blog, January 2009 -