Korean Gifts & Souvenirs
Are you looking for Korean gifts and souvenirs? Korea is brimming with art, culture, and good food. You have a lot of options when it comes to buying Korean gifts. Whether you’re looking for Korean souvenirs, gifts for a Korean living abroad, or gifts for a Korea lover, you won’t have trouble finding something suitable.
With its extensive history and unique art and crafts style, Korea has a lot of traditional designs and products you could choose from. On the other hand, Korea also has blooming modern art and culture, with globally recognized artists, where you’ll be able to explore delightfully amazing gifts.
Today, we’ve compiled some different gift ideas we think you might like to consider.
- Traditional Korean Gift Ideas
- Other Korean Gifts
- Frequently Asked Questions
Traditional Korean Gift Ideas
Let’s begin with the basics! When thinking about Korean gifts, the first thing that comes to mind is something related to Korean traditions and Korea’s rich historical heritage.
1. Korean Style Traditional Patterns (Blankets)
A defining aspect of traditional Korean palaces and temples is their intricately painted and colourful ceilings and beams. The ceilings of various important heritage sites are splayed with colourful, symbolic, and (sometimes) geometric designs. Imbued with the essence of traditional Korean art and culture, these colourful patterns have been adopted into everyday items for everyday use.
These traditional pattern blankets, for example, will make an eccentric addition to a modern living room. Whether the owner has a love for Korean art or culture or has an eye for beautiful patterns, the blankets can be a great way of spicing up and renewing living spaces.
2. Korean Tea
Korean’s love tea and consider it an integral part of their culture. Throughout the centuries, tea culture has flourished in Korea and Koreans developed many different types of tea (traditional tea plants, other plant leaves, flowers, grains, roots, barks, and fruits).
If you’re a tea enthusiast and exploring what Korea has to offer, you are up for a fun journey. If you enjoy brewing traditional loose leaf teas, Korea produces high-quality organic tea from its famous tea plantations. If you want to try something herbal and medicinal, you can try mugwort tea (mugwort is an important herb in Korean food and medicine). There are also some more exotic options such as Korean lotus root tea which comes in the form of dried and sliced roots.
Last but not least, Koreans love green tea and matcha which are used not only as beverages but for baking pastries as well. Korean matcha is versatile, those who enjoy trying out different foods and drinks might have a fun time trying out the different recipes it can be used in.
3. Korean Ginseng
It goes without saying ginseng is an important part of Korean traditional medicine and culture. Ginseng has been an important trade and gift item in East Asia for centuries. Ginseng is tied to Korean national identity; wild ginseng was believed to be closely related to nature and mountain gods.
Nowadays, Korean ginseng is a sought-after product all around the world. Ginseng products come in many different forms; for more traditional uses you can find dried red ginseng roots, the more modern red ginseng extract sticks, and high concentration ginseng extract bottles.
Ginseng tea has a strong and stimulating taste and is believed to have great health benefits. It can be a great gift for both Koreans and Korea lovers who love natural health products.
Celebrating Korea Tea Culture: Tea Ceremonies
A must experience part of Korean culture is the Korean tea ceremony, based on the traditional Korean tea etiquette. The beautiful tea sets used in the ceremony are underrated gifts for Korean culture enthusiasts or Koreans living abroad. Korean ceramics tend to be minimalistic and delicate in design so they will also look beautiful when kept in for display.
Other Tea & Drinks Related Korean Gifts
Korean traditional patterns, fabrics, and papers are commonly used by modern artisans to create items that are suitable for everyday use. You can find Korean fabrics used to create magnificent items, such as these colourfully uplifting coasters, trays adorned with traditional patterns, etc.
4. Korean Jewellery Boxes (Artisan Woodcraft)
When shopping for souvenirs in Korea, it’s difficult to deny the woodwork, the beautifully designed boxed, and even furniture. Mother of Pearl is a popular Korean art where a wooden object is decorated with shimmering material that covers pearls and the inside of shells. Using lots of patience and artisanship, the masters put the small pieces of the material together to create traditional designs, such as flowers, peacocks, cranes, etc.
In the older Korean houses, you could find large dressers and chests decorated in this manner. Mother of Pearl was a staple visual aesthetic in Korean culture.
Nowadays, those who are nostalgic about the beautiful mother of pearl furniture tend to go for smaller objects. This could range from mother of pearl jewelry boxes for women or business card boxes for both men and women.
Mother of pearl products range in price based on size and level of artisanship, they could make luxurious and high-value gifts.
5. Korean Traditional Art Gifts
A great traditional art category to look for is ceramics, Korean celadon vases have historically been considered luxury decoration items. Their delicate designs and faint green glaze makes them perfectly suitable for a wide variety of interior designs.
When it comes to arts and crafts, the available options are plenty and diverse. Korean traditional art is unique and varies from region to region. You can also find traditional crafts, such as Andong Masks, (which also come in many different forms) that are symbolic artefacts of Korean folk traditions.
Have you ever noticed a pair of ducks carved out of wood in Korean movies or dramas? The wooden ducks were traditionally used in Korean weddings. Symbolizing the eternal bond of the bride and groom, these ducks can be found in most wedding ceremonies even to this day. They make a great gift or souvenir for couples.
6. Korean alcohol
Alcohol and drinking are an integral part of Korean culture and social life. It’s no wonder that alcohol and its related products have become popular gift options.
In Korea, high-quality traditional alcohols (i.e. high-quality luxury Soju) and drinkware are gaining popularity.
On the other hand, what is considered day-to-day items in Korea can be a sentimental, nostalgic, or exotic gift for those who live abroad. For example, a set of Soju shot glasses is a great affordable souvenir.
Lastly, these days, many people are enjoying homebrewing as a hobby. We’ve come across an interesting DIY gift: a Makgeolli DIY homebrewing kit, so you can make your own makgeolli. Gifts like this one allow the receiver to learn about Korean traditional drinks with a fun hands-on experience.
Tip: Korean Gift Wrapping Cloth
During Lunar New Year or Chuseok, it’s common to see people using colourful fabric to wrap their gifts (also accessories such as tassels to adorn them). Korean traditional wrapping makes the gift look more unique and authentic. What’s more, the fabrics are reusable and also a great way of preventing dust from damaging stored items.
On holidays such as Chuseok or Lunar New Year, Korean’s tend to visit their families and play traditional Korean games together. Yut Nori, which is played with 4 sticks, is the most popular holiday game.
Playing cards of different types are also popular. You can find sets of Hwatu (flower battle or go-stop) or wester playing cards with beautiful Korean illustrations to enjoy a Korean-style gathering with your friends and family.
Other Korean Gifts
So far, we’ve listed traditional Korean gift ideas. But Korean gifts do not end there. Modern Korean culture is a unique and rapidly evolving one. Here are some ideas for modern Korean gifts and souvenirs.
1. Korea Inspired Backpacks
Modern fashion items inspired by Korean designs are a great way of integrating Korea into everyday life. These backpacks, for example, which are inspired by Korean royal palaces and Korean temples go well with different types of casual fashion styles. The difference in tone and pattern complexity of Royal palaces and temples makes them two very different traditional patterns for people who have different tastes.
2. Korean Name Necklace
If you’re looking for personalized gifts, a Hangul Name Necklace (Korean language) might be worth looking into. People care a lot about their names and receiving a personalized gift can be very meaningful.
Hangul (the Korean alphabet) is a unique and beautiful writing system. Koreans are very proud of the history of Hangul, which was invented to empower the non-aristocratic people.
Check out these personalized Hangul name necklaces, they can make a beautiful gift.
3. North Korean Story T-shirts
ISTORY is a brand that tells stories of North Korean refugees through fashion with the aim to battle discrimination and the prejudices they face when resettling in South Korea. Each t-shirt tells the story of a different North Korean defector, about their lives, dreams, hopes and how they escaped North Korea.
Giving an ISTORY t-shirt as a gift is a very unique gift as you are basically giving a story.
4. Korean Snacks & Soft Drinks
We don’t know when or how snack-giving became popular, but we love it. Snacks are affordable and fun. Much like any other country, Korea has a wide variety of snacks that have been developed to suit the Korean palette. Be it chocolate, cookies, or crisps, a set of Korean snacks an exciting, delicious, and exotic gift. By trying out different Korean snacks you can learn more about Korean food culture. If you’re hoping to help a Korean living abroad battle homesickness, snacks could be a great option.
While not exactly considered a snack, ramen noodles are another option we wanted to include. Korean’s love eating ramen every now and then. If you can do spicy, Shin ramen is a very popular ramen brand you should give a try.
5. K-pop Merchandise
We could not write this article and not mention K-pop as it’s undeniably become popular all around the world. K-pop listeners everywhere enjoy finding merchandise related to their favourite bands. K-pop related merch can range from cute to cool, or even sexy. There are also some general K-pop related merchandise (K-pop culture merch) available worth looking into like K-pop lightsticks, sweaters, etc.
If you are buying a gift for a K-pop fan, and you know they love a special band or artist, we suggest you also look at the merchandise available for that specific artist or group. For example, you are probably familiar with the popularity of the Korean Boyband BTS. The band is famous for having ardent and dedicated fans all over the globe which has led to some fun and innovative BTS merch being produced. BTS is undeniably enjoying popularity all over the world. They are one of the most successful Korean musical groups and have managed to bring the international acknowledgment of K-pop to a whole new level.
When you’re looking into buying a gift for a K-pop fan, there are gift options that help them dress up like a K-pop star. These days there are a variety of vendors who offer Korean-style clothing. As the Asian styles are becoming more popular, many people are opting in for Korean aesthetics.
Speaking about Korean aesthetics, you might have seen the image of Korean celebrities holding up their thumb and index finger against each other in a move that can be called a ‘finger heart’. While looking for gift ideas, we found this novelty heart lamp which is an absolute delight.
6. Korean Skincare Gift Set
Together with K-pop and K-dramas, K-beauty and skincare trends are growing in popularity abroad. Taking a look at top beauty magazines you see that Korean products are becoming a staple in the beauty market. The organically made and beautifully packaged products also makes them a good gift item.
Korean beauty products and skincare items are available in sets or as a gift box, often based on skin type or a specific effect.
7. Korean Stationary
The Korean stationery industry is next level; it’s not an understatement to say they absolutely love beautiful stationery. You can find a wide range of notebooks, diary calendars, planners, pencils, stickers, erasers, etc. with cute and adorable, or dainty and pleasing designs.
Korea is a haven for artists. Doing a quick search you’ll find many Korean illustrators with unique styles that are shaping modern Korean aesthetics. Korean stationery is a world of loveliness that is waiting to be discovered (and perhaps gifted to a friend or family member who loves dainty things as well).
Frequently Asked Questions
The best gifts to buy from Korea include traditional Korean art, cute stationary, K-pop merchandise, clothing, traditional alcohol and so much more.
The best gifts to buy for Korean in-laws are rice cakes, fruits, ginseng, Korean Hanu beef and traditional Korean alcohol.
The best Korean gifts to buy for your girlfriend are skincare products, K-pop merchandise, couple outfits or a Korean name necklace.
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What would be your favourite Korean gift? Do you have any questions about the best gifts from Korea? Have any suggestions on any other gifts? Need more info on any other cool Korean presents? Let us know in the comment section below.
Written by Nahid Tehari