I couldn’t let one more year go by and not make a fun list of Korean gift ideas. This isn’t necessarily a list of souvenirs (I promise that post is somewhere in my drafts), but rather a gift guide for someone who loves South Korean culture.
Maybe they’re getting ready for a big trip to the land of the morning calm. Or maybe they’re still saving their pennies, and instead are feeding their love via K-pop and K-dramas (no judgment, that was me at 18). Or, hey, maybe they’re moving there for one reason or another, and you want to help them get excited about their adventure! I promise these gift ideas will be fun.
15 Unique Korea Gift Ideas
1. Maum-co Candles
I first heard about MAUM-CO Candles when the founder, Christie, reached out to send me one to try! She created the company to both honor and strengthen her ties to her heritage and these early collections celebrate the foundation all Korean culture – the family.
I really enjoyed the way the designs which are both clean and simple. I told Christie I like fruiter, citrusy smells, so she sent me the family 가족 candle which is perfect with notes of fuji apple, Asian pear and cassis. Though, if you have a Korean surname, you should definitely see what your family candle scent is in the heritage collection.
2. A K-Pop or K-Drama Kit
Honestly, I still buy K-pop CDs of my favorite artists when I think of it (namely Kyuhyun’s CDs). If you know your friend is a huge K-pop lover of one specific group, see what kind of merchandise they don’t have and get it for them.
Another idea, though, is to make a fun mix-tape or “kit” for someone who likes Korea but is new to its pop culture scene. For example, if I wanted to make someone a K-pop playlist, I’d probably make one of my favorite songs, no matter how old or new they are. Of all of Big Bang’s songs, my favorite is still “Sunset Glow,” which is now over a decade old. I also am working on seasonal K-pop playlists, starting with my massive summer one!
Also, this isn’t limited to just big artists or popular pop songs. There’s a whole subset of Korean indie musicians and underground rap musicians. One of my favorite songs is called, “1, 2, 3, 4” by Heenain, an artist I don’t think I’ve ever heard from again.
Andddd if your friend just isn’t into Korean music, try some fun K-dramas! I started to get back into them today, but I’m still a pretty slow watcher. I wrote about all my favorite K-dramas in this post.
3. Buy them a tour
I guess this is more if someone’s already planning on coming to Korea, but try buying them a tour. If you can nail down their travel plans, they might appreciate a cool trip out to Boseong Green Tea Fields or a storybook escape from Seoul. For Korea, I have links all around this site for Klook and Trazy. They’re both great as a middleman since a lot of Korean travel is related to knowing a decent amount of Korean.
4. Books about Korea
So, the problem with trying to find books about Korea that aren’t travel guides, is that the most well-known books about the peninsula are actually about North Korea and its obvious issues. I personally get inspired by reading stories that are set in certain countries or cultures, not necessarily travel guides. If your friend does too, here are some interesting books:
- Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin
- The Sun & the Moon Story by Hallie Bradley
- The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
- ABC…K: Seoul from A-Z by Seutepaine LaPointe
- Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah
- A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
- The Mermaid of Jeju by Sumi Hahn
- Pachinko by Min Hee Lee
- Hanok: the Korean House by Nani Park
- The Birth of Korean Cool by Euny Hong
- Little Book of Skincare by Charlotte Cho
5. These fun mugs
Honestly, if I bought mugs every time I saw one I liked, my mother would kill me because I’d take up the whole shed in our backyard with boxes of them. How do people just come up with great mug ideas all the time?
Anyway, I browsed on Etsy for a bit to see what kind of fun stuff people have, and your Korea lovin’ pal might enjoy them!
6. Books to Learn Korean
If there’s one thing I recommend to everyone coming to Korea, whether they’re visiting for 2 weeks or living here for a decade, it’s to learn some Korean. At the very least, LEARN THE ALPHABET.
Get your friend some books or subscriptions on learning Korean. One program I like and would have worked really well for me if I stuck with it, is Talk to Me in Korean.
7. Korea Coloring Books
Each time I’ve left Korea, I’ve come back with an embarrassing amount of adult coloring books. I just love them! At the Seoul Express Bus Terminal, there’s a Bandi + Lundis, and they have a whole, huge coloring book section. When I went once, I found so many about Korea, I picked up like five in one go.
Beyond being relaxing, travel coloring books are also a fun way to get to know a new country or region. I found so many more places to add to my Jeju bucket list when I read through that one.
8. Trendy Korean Skincare Products
*Cough* Innisfree *Cough*
I actually can’t believe how much more available Korean skincare is nowadays! I also can’t believe how popular some of its products have become. Back in 2011, I came home armed with sheet masks and konjac sponges, and everyone thought I was just being weird. You could also only really get them from specialty online Asian st I remember putting on a sheet mask at a training camp for swimming, and everyone thinking I looked nuts. Now, look! They’re everywhere.
You could also really only get them from specialty online Asian stores on in the bigger cities with a physical store. Now they’re as easy an Amazon click!
Shop them here:
Also, if any of my friends and family are reading this, my favorite products from Innisfree are:
- Konjac Sponges
- Apple Seed Cleansing Oil
- Green Tea Balancing Skin
- N0-Sebum Blur Primer
- Their Eyeshadows
- All their sheet masks
- Volcanic Clay Masks
- Camellia Essential Hair Oil Serum
9. Korean Stationary + Stickers
This is going to go two ways. There are the super cutesy stationary and stickers that I also have an embarrassing collection of, or you could go the more mature, traditional stationery, known as hanji. I have a few things made with hanji, like fans or notebooks.
Shop some here:
10. Korean Food (In Someway)
If they’re not going yet, maybe try bringing a little of it to them. Does the Korean restaurant nearby have gift cards? You could also get them a recipe book if they’re into cooking (Always a fan of Maangchi). Or, reverse, try making them something!
If you want something easy, try making a type of jeon. Jeon is the best, and it’s super easy. Find a grocery store that sells makgeolli too. If you want a real Korean experience, go hiking and then come back and eat jeon and makgeolli for lunch!
11. A Make-Your-Own Makgeolli Kit
Speaking of, how fun is this product?! You can make your own makgeolli with this fun kit from Hyesun House. It has a step-by-step brewing guide with all the things you need to make your own makgeolli at home. Buy it here
12. A Baekdusan-Inspired Shirt
This year, my friend, Marie, partnered with her friend Ann, who’s a North Korean refugee and has lived in South Korea for almost a decade, to launch a fashion brand! So far they’ve released a long-sleeved t-shirt with cute elbow patches featuring an illustration of Bakedusan. Baekdusan is sacred to Korea’s history as it’s considered the birthplace of its founder, Dangun. Likewise, a family trip here is where Ann was inspired to study fashion! I personally got the gray version to pick up when I’m in Korea next! Buy it here
13. A Unique Piece from the Seoul of Soul shop
New this year, the same Hallie from above has opened her own unique shop online for Korea lovers! She’s got lots of fun stuff from backpacks to posters to T-shirts and more (including things for kids). Check it out here.
14. These Super Fun Korean Bap Coasters
Ok, tell me these food-themed coasters are not the cutest? The designer/shop owner, RachelleWDesigns has a lot of illustrated products but these might be my favorite of the Korea-themed ones. Buy them here
15. A Donation to a Korean charity
I know, I know. This is in another gift guide from this year. But I feel it’s imporant to include again!
I don’t know about you, but regardless of what’s in or not in my bank account, I know I’m largely privileged, and as I get older, asking for a list of things for Christmas makes me feel a bit… I dunno, spoiled? Like, there are a ton of things I want, and I’m happy to give my mom a list if she asks, but I also don’t need a ton, and I can buy most of what I want on my own dime.
If your friend feels that way and genuinely wants nothing for the holidays, try seeing if there’s a Korean charity that might match what they’re interested in.
There are a lot of different ones. I mentioned this many times, but my favorite is Liberty in North Korea just because they do SO much to help refugees on the ground. You could also look into other charities in Korea. This group can help point you to local shelters and fundraisers for animals in Korea, and this group can point you to helping single mothers (something that’s unfortunately, an actual stigma in society there). Those are three I know off the top of my head, so let me know if you know another great one!
And there you have it! Some unique ideas to give your Korea lovin’ friend. Do you have any Korea gift ideas not included here? Let me know!
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