Looking for the best Korean gift and souvenir ideas for family and friends? Then you’ve come to the right place. I understand how difficult it can be to buy for others as it’s something that I always have trouble with when I travel back to my hometown.
While people may not expect souvenirs, I always want to take back a few items for my close friends and family. Items that represent Korea, are relatively unique, and that the receiver will like. While these criteria are quite simple in theory, once it comes to crunch time I often can’t think of any souvenirs to take home! In this vein, I wanted to create this post today.
Whether you are looking for souvenirs to take home from your vacation in Korea or if you looking for a gift for a Korean-loving friend or family member, this list has suggestions. I have included an online link for every item on the list. All of the items can be purchased physically in Korea also. The goods in the traditional section are most easily found in Insadong, while most of the other gifts can be found all over Korea.
Korea has a wide range of unique gifts and there is bound to be something to please everyone. I wanted to list not only more ‘typical’ gift ideas that you’ve probably already seen online but also to list a wide range of traditional options. With the strong culture of Korea, there are a lot of historic items worth considering!
At the end of the article, there is also a section for online gifts. These are gifts that revolve around online services that don’t involve physical goods. I wanted to add this section because it’s not always possible to get someone a physical present. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure to check out the final section of this post!
With that being said, let me get straight into the list. Whether you are looking for souvenirs to take home from your Korean trip, or are looking for a gift for someone who loves Korea, I hope that you can find some suggestions here. If there’s a gift that you believe should be added, please feel free to let me know in the comments below!
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Traditional Gift Ideas
These gifts represent many of the traditions and history of Korea. If you are looking for something that represents Korea and its rich culture then these are the gifts and souvenirs to check out. Although some of the items are harder to find online (at least for authentic products) Etsy has an amazing selection.
However, if you want truly authentic goods the best way to get them is in Korea itself. I understand that this isn’t possible for everyone and I included online options too. With that being said, if you are in Korea and looking for some souvenirs to take home check the markets and cultural areas such as Insadong first. They will have the widest selection of handmade (and not) traditional gifts.
Image from Joteta
Bojagi are Korean traditional cloths that are used for wrapping. They were very common during the Joseon Dynasty, and more recently they have become a recognised art form in the past few decades. While not common in daily life anymore, they are beautiful and a great traditional Korean gift idea.
Bojagi were often used for purposes such as covering food or carrying items. While they are now mostly used for decoration, they can definitely still be used functionally. If you know someone looking to add some colour to their life, this traditional art form makes for a great gift. Alternatively, if you plan to get another gift for someone, why not wrap it in Bojagi? It’s stunning!
2. Korean Traditional Paintings & Calligraphy
If you know someone with an empty space on their wall, make sure to check out Korean traditional paintings – they are amazing! Many paintings (traditional Korean paintings are called ‘Minhwa’) feature important cultural elements of Korean society such as tigers, dragons, and cranes as well as local landmarks (including many mountains!).
Minhwa can be found both in colour or in monochrome. You will also be able to find contemporary designs that mix in more modern elements. If you are looking for a gift for an art-lover, Minhwa paintings are a great idea.
If the person you are buying for would prefer something more simple or more personalised, then calligraphy is also an option. Hangul calligraphy is exquisite and it can add to the aesthetic of any room. Even better, you can get a name, phrase, or particular word printed making it a truly unique gift.
If you are interested in Korean culture, or even just Korea, you are probably already familiar with hanbok. This historic clothing has remained in Korea for centuries and it represents both the historic and current Korea. While traditional hanbok is very large and quite difficult to wear, many designers have added a contemporary twist and created modern hanbok.
Modern hanbok inherit many of the most unique elements of traditional hanbok but implement them in a style that is more usable in modern daily life. Modern hanbok is elegant and looks amazing. If you know someone who loves fashion, modern hanbok is a great gift idea!
Traditional hanbok can also make for a great gift for some people. However, traditional hanboks are often much more expensive, larger, and are more of an event outfit rather than daily clothing. With that being said, If you know someone who loves hanbok then make sure to consider traditional hanbok as a gift also!
Another fantastic Korean gift idea is pottery. Korean pottery is distinctive from other pottery in both the form and design. Korea has had a rich history, especially when it comes to pottery. Over the dynasties, porcelain, celadon, and ceramic wares have all taken the centre stage.
While historic pottery most commonly took on forms such as jars and pitchers, there are many contemporary spins that add traditional designs and materials to plates, cups, and more. This makes Korean pottery a fantastic traditional Korean gift – whether for its functionality or simply to put on display.
5. Traditional Korean Foods
Food is one of the best ways to introduce culture. Everyone loves food, and there are many adventurous taste buds out there! If this sounds like someone you know, why not check out some of Korea’s delectable traditional foods?
While there are a lot of foods that could make this list, a few that are particularly popular as gifts are tteok (rice cakes), kimchi, and ginseng (more on that soon!). Also popular are key ingredients such as gochujang and doenjang. These are used in an incredible variety of Korean dishes and they will allow the receiver to experiment with a range of Korean recipes.
Know a tea lover? Then this gift idea is for them! These days a lot of tea has become easily accessible globally. However, often this tea doesn’t encapsulate the authentic taste and feel of the original. For this reason, I recommend trying to purchase teas from authentic, Korean vendors and brands.
Some particularly famous (and well-known) teas in Korea are nokcha (green tea), ginseng, hongcha (black tea), and sollipcha (pine leaf). This is a very brief selection – there are so many Korean teas to explore. This makes tea a fantastic traditional Korean gift idea for any tea lover in your life!
Another wonderful gift idea is to give someone a Korean tea-making experience. While this isn’t possible for everyone, if you live in a big city there is a chance that you can find someone local who can hold the ceremony. If the gift-receiver is in Korea, it’s very easy to find such experiences.
7. Cutlery Sets
While these are a less traditional choice than the other options on this list, cutlery and chopstick sets are a great gift idea! In Korea, eating is usually done with two utensils – chopsticks and spoons. Knives and forks are generally not used for Korean dishes and are, rather, used mostly when eating western foods.
Before I came to Korea, one of my friends got me one of these cutlery sets. It was one of the best gifts I could have gotten because it encouraged me to learn how to use chopsticks and the chopstick + spoon combination before I came to Korea. It’s much better to get some practice in before visiting than to jump straight in the deep end!
If you are buying for younger children there are also sets that include finger rings on each chopstick. This will allow children to get their finger placement correct and will make eating far easier. Really, there’s no downside to learning how to use chopsticks and that is what makes this a great gift!
8. Korean Pillows
This might sound a little weird, but hear me out! Korean pillows, often referred to as buckwheat pillows since that is what they contain inside, are very different from the pillows that you are probably used to. They are firmer, more supportive, and often smaller.
Buckwheat pillows are rising in popularity due to the posture and support benefits that they provide. While they take time to get used to, they are worth trying! On top of all this, they are often eye-catching due to the colour combinations and designs that they are created with!
9. Korean Board Games
If you are looking for a gift for a group of people, you really can’t go wrong with board games and card games. With such a rich history, it’s inevitable that Korea has some unique entertainment options. Some of these did not originate in Korea, but they play a big part in historic entertainment.
In the picture above you can see a selection of beautifully designed cards from the game ‘Hwatu’ (sometimes called go-stop or Godori). This game revolves around matching cards with similar flora – flora that is representative of different seasons in The Land of the Morning Calm.
Another culturally significant board game in Korea is Yut. Yut takes place on a square board, with a cross added in the centre. The game revolves around players moving around the board while trying to score points – all while rolling sticks with one flat side and one round side. It’s a fun game to play with friends and rounds don’t take too long.
These are perhaps the most iconic card and board games in Korea. However, there are a lot of other board games that can make great gifts too! There are also a lot of contemporary spins on the traditional games if you are looking for something a bit more modern.
10. Jewellery Box
Jewellery box by Prismgarden on Etsy
If you know someone who possesses a lot of jewellery, or perhaps just someone who likes pretty things, a Korean jewellery box might be a good choice of gift! These boxes come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and prices. However, one thing is consistent between almost all of the boxes – they are intricately crafted with gorgeous designs.
Similar to Minhwa (Korean traditional paintings), you will be able to find a lot of jewellery boxes featuring important cultural symbols. Expect to find lots of boxes with birds, butterflies, flowers, and more. There are also some more minimal designs featuring less elaborate (but still beautiful) patterns.
While jewellery boxes with higher quality materials will be more expensive, it’s very possible to find smaller boxes at affordable prices!
11. Hanji Paper & Fans
Hanji paper is traditionally handmade paper. While these days it often isn’t handmade (especially if you buy online), it’s still possible to find handmade choices in the markets of Korea. With that being said, handmade or not, Hanji paper is a very special gift.
This paper is created from the bark of mulberry trees, trees that are native to Korea and that are common on mountainsides. The paper is crafted using a complex process that is designed to reduce ink bleed. Perhaps the most interesting part is that this paper comes in a variety of different colours, thicknesses, and designs.
Hanji paper is very durable, and (as shown in the picture above) it can be rolled, bent, and moved lots without being damaged. Although it’s not as popular as it was in the past, the paper is still used by artists and calligraphers today.
12. Dojang Stamp
Dojang stamp from HanjiAvenue on Etsy
Dojang stamps are name stamps that every Korean citizen has. These stamps can be used on official documents instead of a signature. While the use of Dojang stamps isn’t as common today as it was in the past, they are still commonly seen when signing contracts. The best bit? You can get your own created if you visit Korea!
What makes Dojang stamps such a good gift choice to take back for your friends or family is that they are personalised. Depending on how much you are willing to spend, they can be made out of plastic, wood, marble, porcelain or something else entirely!
While the person to who you intend to give the stamp will probably have no use for it, it’s a very cool gift. It’s also something that represents a big part of Korean culture!
Other Gift Ideas
Not looking for a traditional gift? Or feel like none of the options above will work for your gift? Then the options below may be better suited to you. The gifts below may are not all unique to Korea, but the country either puts a unique spin on the items (such as phone cases) or makes high-quality products (such as stationery).
Many of these items are also smaller and therefore make for great souvenirs. It can be hard to pick up souvenirs for ten or twenty people back home, but items such as stationery, phone cases, snacks, and socks are all great choices as they are inexpensive and easy to find.
1. Korean Clothing
Korea is renowned for its fashion. In fact, I’ve already written a range of articles regarding Korean fashion, from where to buy it, to the latest Korean fashion trends. While there is a massive range of potential clothing gifts, I would like to particularly recommend two stores.
The first is Kore Limited. Kore Limited clothing features a blend of traditional and historic Korean elements with current styles from the streets of Seoul. Their catalogue is updated every season, and there is always something new to check out. Kore Limited is perhaps the best clothing brand for anyone wanting to display their love of Korea.
The second Korean fashion website that is fantastic for gifts is StyleupK. I recommend StyleupK because they feature only clothing from authentic Korean fashion brands. If you shop on this site you can ensure that you are getting only authentic clothing from the top brands that are currently trendy.
2. Gift Boxes
Perhaps the easiest gift on this list, Korean gift boxes are a great choice for anyone who loves Korea. These boxes can be ordered online, straight to your doorstep. They can feature anything from Korean snacks to cosmetics, jewellery, or just a random assortment of Korean-related goods.
Daebak box and SnackFever are the two boxes that I would personally recommend. Daebak Box contains a variety of goods from Korea. When I got my Daebak box, it had some snacks, stationery, cosmetics, and more. SnackFever, on the other hand, contains a variety of Korean snacks – think candy, ramyun, chips, and more! Even better, both boxes tend to contain more than their price in items.
3. Korean Learning Resources
Looking for the best Korean gift for someone who enjoys practical things? Why not get them some language learning resources to help with their Korean endeavours? I have an article discussing the best ways to learn Korean if this sounds like a suitable gift!
If you’re looking for a more traditional learning format, I would recommend the books from Talk To Me in Korean. These books are fantastic and cover everything from the basics to advanced concepts. If a digital gift works, check out 90 Day Korean. They provide a great learning platform for anyone who is currently beginner to intermediate level at the language.
4. Korean Cosmetics
Another fantastic gift idea for not just those who love Korea, but really everyone, is Korean cosmetics. Handily, these days it is easy to find such cosmetics in many local stores around the world. If they can’t be found locally, they are sure to be easy to find online!
While Korean cosmetics overall are famous, skincare is the most well-known – face masks especially! While it can be hard to purchase cosmetics as a gift, there are a range of goods for different purposes and skin types. Most Korean cosmetic websites will allow you to find cosmetics by skin condition and this makes the process of gift buying far easier.
There are also a lot of beauty boxes available. If you want to get someone a gift of cosmetics but aren’t quite sure what to pick, these boxes are a great choice. They include an assortment of beauty products from a range of different brands.
5. Kpop Merch
With Kpop becoming increasingly popular by the day, many people will have someone in their lives who loves the music. If you know one of these people, check out the Kpop merchandise that can be found online! There are a lot of websites that offer international shipping with a range of Kpop products.
Before purchasing a gift for any Kpop lover, make sure to know which groups or idols they like. Once you know this information, there are a ton of gift ideas! If they are missing any albums, you can add some to their collection. If they have the albums, make sure to check out other merch like photo cards, lightsticks, and mystery boxes!
6. Ramyun & Snacks
While food may not be the most exciting present, it also provides a safe bet as part of a gift, or even as a small gift in itself. While there are a lot of foods that could be included here, I already mentioned kimchi, tteok, and some others in the traditional gifts section. Therefore, here I added ramyun and snacks. However, don’t let this limit you – there are a ton of other foods that make for great presents too!
Korea has an incredible range of ramyun flavours and they are a good and easy way to give the taste of Korea. Snacks are also an ideal choice as the majority of them aren’t perishable. Further, both ramyun and typical snacks are easy to travel with – travelling with foods such as kimchi can cause a lot of issues in customs. If you’re wondering which ramyuns make the best gifts, check out this post on the best Korean ramyun!
7. Posters & Framed Prints
A fantastic gift idea for anyone looking to add a feature piece to their room or home. There are many fantastic photographers in South Korea, and a lot of them sell their artwork in the form of posters, canvases, and framed prints. In fact (shameless self-plug), I do so too! If you are interested, you can find my prints here.
Framed photos make for outstanding gifts as a nice print can bring a portal to Korea directly into any room in a house. These prints can also be found in a large range of styles. Looking to add a hint of nature to a room? Add some photos of the Korean countryside. Looking to add a modern vibe? Add some cityscape photos! There are a ton of options, and that makes photos a great gift idea.
8. Hangul Clothing & Jewelry
Custom Hangul shirt by BluesquareCo on Etsy
Looking for a more personalised gift? Along with custom calligraphy, make sure to consider custom-printed clothing and jewellery! There are a lot of stores on Etsy that allow you to print whatever hangul you want on a range of different clothing and accessories.
While this is a fantastic gift idea that allows for a personalised touch, make sure to tread with some caution. When translating words of phrases to print, make sure to double-check that they are correct. If possible, check with a Korean friend first too! A spelling mistake can potentially lead to some awkward situations down the line!
If you do decide on this gift idea, but don’t have a Korean friend, you can always ask online! There are lots of places where you can ask questions for free. One such place is the Korean language subreddit on Reddit. Another tip – use Papago instead of Google Translate for any translations!
9. Kakao Friends
KakaoFriends. Credit to Kakao
If you’re not familiar with Kakao, it is the biggest messaging platform in South Korea. It’s bigger than Whatsapp, Messenger, and every other platform… Far bigger. Kakao has a range of emoticons (stickers) that can be sent to friends. The main characters in these stickers are called Kakao Friends.
The thing is, these characters are very cute. Kakao realised this and began to sell a massive range of items based on the Kakao friends. Seriously, the range is massive. You can find anything from passport covers to charging cables with Kakao characters on them!
Kakao Friends products make for great gifts not only because of the wide variety of items on sale but also because everybody interested in Korea is familiar with them. Really, who doesn’t love Kakao Friends? (I used to eat convenience store bread every day just for the Kakao stickers…)
Image from Joteta.
This one is mainly for anyone who is visiting Korea and looking for gifts to take back home. However, there are some good Korean accessory sites out there for anyone looking to buy online. With that being said, if you are in Korea, or are visiting soon, make sure to check out the university shopping areas in Seoul – they have a lot of stores selling earrings, rings, bracelets, hair bands, and more!
What makes Korean accessories so unique is that they are inexpensive and often maintain high quality. This makes them the perfect gift idea. If you are looking for ‘a little something’ to give family and friends back home as a souvenir, accessories should most definitely be on your radar!
11. Phone Cases
Heart phone case by JoraJoraCo on Etsy
This one follows closely with the above point about accessories. While you can find some very cool Korean phone cases online, these will be significantly easier to find if you are in Korea yourself. Looking for some gifts to take back to your close friends and family back home? Phone cases are a perfect idea!
Similar to accessories, phone cases in Korea are in high demand. This means that they are inexpensive, high quality, and have eye-catching designs. Whether you are looking for something cute or something that represents Korea, you will be able to find a phone case that fits!
If you visit an area such as Hongdae, you will quickly come across phone case stores. These stores stock cases for virtually any phone from the past 3 years (some stores will offer cases for older phones too!). If you are buying for Samsung or iPhone, you will have even better luck!
Although a lot of people don’t know this, Korea is a county that makes fantastic socks. Seriously, I can easily pick up a pair of high-quality socks with anything from cute printings to full colours for less than $2 per pair. If you’re looking for a small gift for someone, make sure to consider socks!
Cute socks are a particular speciality of Korea when it comes to socks. You will be able to find almost any cartoon or animation character imaginable on socks in Korea! You can also expect to see characters such as Ryan from Kakao Friends (of course!). For this reason, Korean socks are ideal either as a small part of a bigger gift or alone as a small gift.
If you’ve been reading through this list in order then by now you’ve probably established that Korea produces a lot of cute items. The same goes for stationery! This is an especially good present idea if you know someone who loves journaling!
On top of stationery, you can also find sticker sets and a range of other accessories to make any diary or journal a creative haven! Korean stationery is typically of high quality at affordable pricing. If you’re visiting Korea, this gift idea is especially easy to sort out due to the large number of stationery stores around the country.
14. Soju Shot Glasses & Makgeolli Cups
If you know someone who enjoys drinking from time to time, soju shot glasses or makgeolli cups may be the perfect gift idea! Both of these drinks are incredibly popular in Korea, and you’ll find a lot of souvenir versions of both of them.
Of course, there are also many sets that include soju or makgeolli along with the cups! These are a great idea for any adults that have a more adventurous taste as they offer both a temporary gift and something more permanent too!
Online Gift Ideas
What if you can’t give or send the person a physical gift? Well, luckily there are some great online Korean gift choices that can be gifted to anyone, anywhere. Some of the options on this list are subscriptions, but many platforms offer 6-month or year-long purchase options that can be bought outright.
1. Kdrama Subscription
Kdramas (Korean dramas) have taken the world by storm and there are more and more people watching Korean media than ever before. If you know someone who loves Kdrama, or someone who’s looking to practice their Korean, why not get them a Kdrama subscription?
While more common platforms such as Netflix and Hulu have some Korean dramas, there are dedicated platforms that provide better libraries. The most popular out of these platforms are Viki and OnDemandKorea.
Tying into the next point, Kdramas are a fantastic way to practice Korean. If you know someone who is learning the language, this gift can help immensely. It’s one of the most fun ways to learn, and it’s a great way to pick up pronunciation and accents. For this reason, a kdrama subscription may be a great gift choice!
2. Korean Language Learning
If you’re looking for a very practical gift for someone who wants to learn Korean, or who is already learning Korean, make sure to see if there is a way that you can help them! You can either choose the physical route and go for books, or you can give them access to an online language learning platform!
There are some fantastic platforms out there for learning Korean. Prime among these are 90DayKorean (great for beginners), Talk To Me In Korean (great for beginner-advanced) and KoreanClass101. All of these platforms have different strengths and weaknesses, but they all provide a solid curriculum.
3. Online Tours
These days, travelling is hard. With travel restrictions and quarantine periods existing in many countries, online tours have become a mainstay in the travel industry. However, these trends are bound to stick around even once travel begins to pick up again! This is lucky as they can make for a great gift for anyone that wants to visit Korea but currently can’t.
Virtual tours can cost as little as $2 and you can visit almost any attraction that you can think of. You can even virtually visit concerts, performances, and more! The best part is that they are often somewhat time-flexible, and many are guided by qualified tour guides that know about the background history of each attraction.
4. Digital Korean Recipe Book
Although there are a lot of free recipes out there these days, having all of your recipes in one place is beyond convenient. Having a recipe book, even if digital, is also a great way to stumble upon new foods that you want to try!
If you know someone that loves Korean food, why not give them a gift that keeps on giving? A recipe book can do just this. While there are still a few ingredients that can be hard to find outside of Korea, the vast majority of ingredients are easily available online nowadays.
Korean Gift & Souvenir FAQ
What Are the Best Korean Souvenirs to Take Home?
If you’re looking for some Korean souvenirs to take home, make sure to pick up some cute socks, traditional Korean food, stationery and some phone cases/accessories!
What Are the Best Small Korean Gifts?
If you’re looking for some small gifts, traditional food (such as tteok) is always a good choice. Stationery and socks also make for good small gifts.
What Are the Best Gifts for Food Lovers?
If you know a food lover why not pick up some essential Korean ingredients such as gochujang or doenjang? Foods such as kimchi and ramyun also never miss. A recipe book is another good idea!
What Are the Best Gifts for Children?
For children, stationery and toys always work well! If they have a smartphone, a cute case can also be a good choice.
What Korean Gifts Can I Buy Online?
These days you can buy almost any Korean gift or souvenir online. The only items that are difficult to buy are items such as handmade Hanji and custom Dojang stamps.
What Are the Best Traditional Korean Souvenirs?
Bojagi makes for great souvenirs. Traditional pottery, teacups, and cutlery sets are also all great choices!