Grocery Stores In Korea | The Best Korean Supermarkets
Navigating grocery stores in Korea can be an exciting and enriching experience for both newcomers and travelers alike. With a plethora of options ranging from traditional markets to modern supermarkets, Korea offers a diverse array of culinary delights waiting to be explored. Whether you’re in search of everyday essentials or eager to discover unique snacks and ingredients, this article serves as your comprehensive guide to navigating the vibrant world of Korean grocery shopping. Join us as we delve into the intricacies of these stores, uncovering everything you need to know to make your shopping experience enjoyable and fulfilling.
Grocery stores in Korea are an integral part of the country’s food culture. Known for their impeccable cleanliness, variety of fresh produce, and affordable prices, Korean grocery stores cater to the needs of both locals and expats.
Supermarkets like E-mart, Lotte Mart, and Homeplus dominate the market, offering everything from fruits, vegetables, and meats to household items, electronics, and clothing.
In addition to large chain stores, smaller neighborhood markets such as traditional outdoor markets (known as “jangteom”) and convenience stores (such as CU and GS25) are also popular. These smaller stores offer quick and convenient shopping experiences, often open 24 hours a day, and provide essential items for daily life.
The popularity of online grocery shopping has also grown rapidly in recent years, with many stores offering online ordering and delivery services. Overall, grocery stores in Korea offer a unique and diverse shopping experience that reflects the country’s food culture and values.
Things To Know About Grocery Stores In Korea
- Membership cards: you can get a membership card at any of the supermarkets listed below. If you are a frequent visitor, this card will help you save points and get extra discounts.
- Closing days: every major supermarket is closed on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.
- Delivery service: if you go shopping to a major supermarket, you can have your shopping bags delivered to your house if you buy over a certain amount of money (in Emart the minimum is 50 000 krw)
- Tax refunds: many supermarkets offer Tax refunds for tourists who buy over 30 000 won or more.
- Food courts: every single major supermarket has a food court attached to it and the food is pretty good, so if you are hungry, why not give it a try.
- Plastic bags: plastic bags are not free in South Korean supermarkets, so why not bring your own reusable shopping bag?
- Online groceries: Are you stuck in quarantine? Can’t go out for getting your groceries or are just feeling lazy? Then you can easily order groceries online. Click here for more info about ordering groceries online and having them delivered to your house.
Major Grocery Stores In Korea
There are 4 main Korean grocery store chains in South Korea, all sell a similar type of products and their prices are competitive. You probably want to pick your go-to grocery store based on where you are located and which grocery store is the closest to you. If you are based in Seoul, you probably find many different franchise grocery stores in Seoul of which you can pick from. In smaller cities, the variety of stores is way smaller. If you are looking for the closest Korean grocery store near you, just search in Google for ‘Korean grocery stores near me’.
1. Lotte Mart
Lotte Mart is a huge company in Korea that has owns all kinds of businesses including Lotte Mart, Lotte Department Store, Lotte World, Lotte Hotel and much more. In Lotte Mart you’ll find a wide range of groceries, clothing, toys, electronics and much more. If you are shopping in Lotte Mart, you’ll definitely get some great discounts. What’s great about Lotte is that they offer a selection of different brands but also their house brand Lotte. Must try Lotte products are Binch Cookies, Choco Pies, Custard Cream Cakes, 2% Peach Drink, Milkis Strawberry Drink and much more.
It is said that one of the best places to buy good quality meat is Lotte Mart.
Some unique things to buy in Lotte Mart are tteokbokki crackers, binggrae banana flavoured milk, orion moist and chewy cake, seaweed and much more!
You can sign up for a special Lotte Membership card at any information desk in the Lotte Department stores. Click here find out how to use the L.Points.
When shopping at Lotte Mart, you can ask for domestic and even international EMS delivery (depending on the Lotte Mart).
Apart from big Lotte grocery stores, there are also many Lotte Korean mini marts.
Emart is part of the Shinsegae group and is one of the largest retailers in South Korea. It was first founded in 1993 and is therefor the oldest supermarket chain in the country. You can buy almost everything in Emart including groceries, clothes, cosmetics, pet supplies, gardening tools, electronics and toys.
Some must buy Emart items are dried seaweed, instant coffee, No Brand products, western brands and western alcohol.
Sign up for a Shinsegae membership which will help you save points and give you extra discounts. Click here for more info about the Shinsegae membership program.
If you buy over 50 000 krw at Emart you are legible for free delivery (limited to certain areas). Some Emarts have multiple floors and are considered to be some of the biggest grocery stores in Korea.
Established in 1999 by Samsung and Tesco. The original name of the supermarket chain was Samsung Tesco but this was changed over time and Homeplus is now the 2nd biggest retailer in South Korea. You can buy anything in Homeplus from groceries, toys, furniture, clothing, toys, electronics and more.
Just like the supermarkets listed above, Homeplus also has its own membership program. You can easily sign up for the membership program at any information desk in Homeplus. Click here for more info about My Homeplus.
You can have your groceries delivered to your house after shopping in Homeplus. The cost is 3000 krw for purchases under 40 000 krw and free for purchases over 40 000 krw.
You all know Costco as being a popular American supermarket chain, but Costco has no less than 16 stores in South Korea (with 9 of them being in Seoul). It is a super popular store among Koreans but only people with a membership can enter the store. The price of the Costco membership starts are 33 000 krw and can be used in any Costco around the world!
The products available at Costco are quire different from what you can buy in any other Korean grocery store and visiting a Costco is a unique shopping experience in its own. You can literally buy anything in Costco and you can buy it in bulk including all kinds of groceries, toys, foreign products, electronics, furniture and much more!
If you are looking for unique things to buy in Costco Korea then make sure to try one of the following items bulgogi bake, terarosa coffee or dried fish.
5. No Brand
The No Brand chain is relatively new compared to all the chains mentioned above and is part of the same Shinsegae group as Emart. You can compare No Brand with Lidl or Aldi as it is the cheapest grocery store in Korea. The brand focuses on selling simple products and here are some must buy items: Choco Ring Cereal, Purple Sweet Potato Chips and Chocolate Chip Cookies.
The stores are pretty small compared to the huge chains mentioned above but you can buy all the groceries you need, including house hold items, groceries, home decoration, clothing and more.
6. Department Stores
Department stores in Korea are highly popular and well-known for their top-notch quality products, excellent customer service, and luxurious shopping experience. These department stores offer a wide range of products including clothing, cosmetics, electronics, home appliances, and much more. Some of the most popular department stores in Korea include Lotte Department Store, Shinsegae Department Store, and Hyundai Department Store. These stores are not only known for their high-end products, but also for their amazing food courts and restaurants that offer a wide range of delicious Korean and international cuisines. Additionally, department stores in Korea often hold various events and promotions, making them a popular destination for both locals and tourists.
Small Grocery Stores In Korea
Like every country, Korea has a bunch of small grocery stores that sell the every day groceries like veggies, fruit, dairy, bread, cleaning products, meat, etc. As fruit can be quite expensive in major supermarkets, it is highly recommended to buy your fruit in smaller fruit stores or marts.
Korean Convenience Stores
If you just need some small items (instant food, snacks, beer, soju, makgeolli, dairy, drinks) you can get them at convenience stores (any time, any day). They are a bit more expensive than supermarkets and grocery stores but they are extremely convenient. Listed below are some of the most popular chains.
One of the number 1 convenience store chains in Korea. You can literally find one on every corner of every street. Some must try items in GS25 are Orion Chocopie House, Pengsoo Half and Half Gimbab, strawberry tart, porridge and Viyott.
Get yourself a GS25 membership and enjoy exclusive deals and additional discounts. Click here to find out more about the membership program.
CU is another very popular convenience store chain which can be found all over the country. It is owned by BGF retail and was established when the Family Mart franchise licence ended. Some must try items in CU are macarons, smoked chicken thigh and dumpling with ultrathin dough skin and fillings.
7/11 or 7-Eleven is an American convenience store chain which can be found all over the world and especially in Asian countries. In South Korea, 7-Eleven partnered up with Lotte, which means you can use your L.Point Lotte Membership in 7/11 convenience stores.
Emart24 is a relatively new convenience store and is like Emart, part of the Shinsegae group, so you can use your Shinsegae membership card in this convenience store. Many of the product which you can buy in Emart24 are from the Emart housebrand No Brand. One of the yummiest things to try is the Sweet Potato Mochi.
This is probably the least popular convenience store and they have way less venues than all the other franchises. Ministop is actually part of the Japanese Group ÆON. The first Ministop opened in Korea in 1990.
Traditional Markets In Korea
The last option to get all your groceries is to go to a traditional market. You can find at least one traditional market in every city and each traditional market has its own speciality. The prices of food items at these type of markets are usually way cheaper than any supermarket or mart.
Some of the most famous markets in South Korea are:
- Gwangjang Market – One of the oldest and biggest covered traditional markets in Seoul. You’ll find a lot of street food vendors but also lots of Korean food or fermented and dried products.
- Noryangjin Market – The biggest fish market in Seoul! If you are looking to buy good quality fish at a reasonable price, this is the place to be. It is definitely a unique experience to visit this place.
- Garak Market – Garak Market is one of the biggest wholesale markets in Seoul. you can buy every kind of fruit, vegetable, meat or fish and you can buy it in bulk. Click here for more info about Garak Market.
- Jeju Dongmun Traditional Market – The most popular traditional market in Jeju and you’ll find a lot of very local Jeju products, like seafood, omegi-tteok, hallabong or gogi-guksu.
- Suwon Paldalmun Market – This market is absolutely huge and it includes 9 different parts. Suwon Paldalmun market is famous for its red peppers.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are looking for a supermarket you can say the following: 슈퍼마켓이 어디에요? (supomaket-i eodi-eyo?).
The most popular grocery store in Seoul among foreigners is definitely the Seoul Station Lotte Mart branch.
The 2 most popular supermarkets are Lotte Mart and Emart. Here you can buy everything you need from groceries to electronics.