South Korean Souvenirs

South Korean Souvenirs

You’ve come all this way; you’re going to want to take something home for the family. Of course, being a modern country, you could pick up any number of souvenirs, from bargain electronics to unique stationary, but we’ve focused on the things that we think will help you remember your time in Korea, and perhaps make your family go ‘wow’. Here are our top ten things you simply must pick up on your trip:

- Andong Masks – Ornate, wooden masks from the town of Andong are both relatively affordable and look extremely nice hanging on a living room wall. If you go to the festival, or just take a stroll through Insadong in the sunshine and flit through the craft stalls.

- Barbed Wire DMZ Plaques – Never thought you’d pay out for a piece of barbed wire on a plaque? After an emotional trip to the DMZ, you might find these mounted, spiky reminders of your trip more desirable than you expected. They certainly tug at the heartstrings, and should the countries reunite, you’ll be onto a winner financially, too.

- Tinned Silkworm Larvae – Sure, it’s a little bit silly, but we’re willing to bet that any friend you send these foul smelling little critters will be getting them out at every party for some time to come. We bought our tin several years ago, and though it’s well past its sell by date, it still sits on the mantelpiece (sealed, of course) and provides a great laugh to anyone who stops by. You’ll have to eat the larvae on your trip, of course, to get the full effect; you’ll find it providing you follow the cloud of foul smell to the corner of the country’s parks.

- Korean BBQ Set – A Korean BBQ set will probably have to be sent home, unless you have substantial space in your luggage, but it’s one of the best souvenirs you could buy from your time on the road, being both practical and allowing you to bring your Korean experience in your own home. There are all sorts of options, from tables with built in BBQs to tiny bucket options that you might just squeeze into your luggage at a push. The memories, though, are the best side.

- Hanbok – Traditional Korean clothing is bright, floaty and perhaps not something you’ll wear very often at home, but it does look unusual and a little bit special, especially for the girls. The guys might be less enamored with the style and mish mash colors, but the clothing’s still an appealing option overall, particularly for kids.

- Folk Figurines – If you can’t handle the full on Hanbok traditional dress suggested above, the cheaper yet very ornate folk figurines commonly available in souvenir shops might make a preferable alternative. They sit nicely on the mantelpiece and you don’t have to wear the clothing yourself to show it off.

- ‘ROKetship’ – Luke Martin’s book exploring Korean culture from the point of view of an expat will have you chuckling and understanding Korean culture to a new level all at the same time. It’s simplistic and cartoon based, but the pictures jump out to you immediately and remind you of odd ‘culture clash’ moments that make a trip this far from home so interesting.

- Local Liquor – With a liquor industry that’s both exceptionally cheap and extremely unusual, a selection of Soju, various fruit liquors and rice wine can make a perfect selection of strange gifts to take home for the family. The only down side we can see is import limits when you travel – we’d suggest stocking each member of your group up to the absolute limit with this strange and interesting selection of ‘tipples’.

- Korean Movies – The South Korean movie industry is far better than most people realize, with some absolutely top notch movies on offer, from the gruesome Oldboy to a director’s very personal take on two brothers in the Korean War, as depicted in Taegukgi. The problem, of course, is that these movies are either almost impossible to find or very expensive elsewhere. Buy them in country, and they’ll not only add to your cultural experience, but you’ll have something a little different to show off to media-savvy friends and film buffs back home.

- ‘Engrish’ T Shirts – Head down to any Korean clothes market, and you’ll find a selection of t-shirts written by Koreans in English. It won’t take long to find something seriously entertaining, and these quirky offerings can make for the best souvenirs. Think slogans like ‘Mummy, please buy me an elephant’, and things with far more amusing (and poorly translated) backgrounds. Our favorite reads ‘no man would ever be with me’ and comes in extremely small women’s sizes. Perfect.