Question from a reader: online shopping in Korea?

A reader writes in:
Hello Chris,
Let me first thank you for the wealth of information you have in this blog; I have several of your pages saved in my favorite places for reference.  I’m currently in the process of working with a few recruiters to land me a teaching job somewhere out there and reading your blog has been very helpful.
I have a question regarding online shopping in South Korea.  Here in the U.S., I do a lot of my shopping online.  Clothes, electronics, exercise supplements, etc.  I guess I mostly shop on, but there are a few other sites as well.  What I want to know is how easy is it to shop online in South Korea?  Is their online market place as robust as ours?  I know I could always just use the same websites I use here, but the shipping costs would probably be through the roof.
Probably seems like an odd question, considering all the other things that should be on my mind, but I haven’t really this topic mentioned anywhere else I’ve looked.
Thanks for your help,
To be perfectly honest, online shopping in Korea as a foreigner is a pain. While one of my older posts talks about the hassles of registering on social-couponing sites, I haven’t spent much time attempting to shop on Korean websites. There’s the language barrier, uncertainties on payment and shipping, and no guarantees if there’s a wrong size or color. Living in Seoul allows for plenty of shopping options; Busan and other larger cities all have plenty of malls and department stores a bus ride away.
If you’re looking to give it a shot, start with these sites:
Online shopping in Korea:  – perhaps the most popular and easiest place to get started. Owned by eBay, Gmarket has plenty of apparel, beauty stuff, sports stuff, and a little bit of everything else. Just like eBay, it’s merely the trading platform to facilitate commerce from buyers and sellers. – an expat-friendly combination of Costco products and things waygooks miss from home. Before you suffer sticker shock, remember that many of these products are only sold in a few places offline around Korea, so you’re paying more for convenience than anything else. – although it’s aimed at providing some things from home before you even leave Korea, there’s a way to order things if you’re already here. Things like sheets, transformers, and big towels are available in some Korean department stores. – get your tickets for shows, performances, and so on. It’s easy enough to navigate, but payment can be a little tricky. – the brick-and-mortar is located in Seoul’s Itaewon area, but the same bookstore shops nationwide and can order any book you like.
I can’t comment on the social-couponing sites based on personal use, so consider these a simple listing of what’s active (and note they’re mostly to entirely in Korean):
Still works in Korea: – still a favorite amongst expats from around the world. While shipping will be higher than to your home country, you may find it’s still a cheaper price even with the higher shipping. There’s always the classic ‘ship-it-to-your-parents-and-have-them-ship-it-to-you’ plan. – great for books, e-books, and everything else Amazon is known for.
iTunes – keep your account and banking information in your home country, and shop for music, apps, etc. in much the same way.
Craigslist – the Seoul craigslist has plenty of expats and gyopos (Koreans who have lived abroad for some to all of their life) unloading furniture, cameras, electronics, and offering ‘EVERYTHING MUST GO’ sort of sales.
Honorable mentions: – essentially an intermediary between you and Korean shops, primarily dealing in clothing. They ship worldwide, although you’ll pay more and wait a few weeks to receive your selections. – another service to help you with your Korean shopping needs.
The good news – the real-name verification system is on its way out. Whether the sites have made much progress in making registration easier for foreigners is still very much in the air, however. Just like the recent FTA between Korea and the US, just because the laws change doesn’t necessarily mean things have gotten better / faster / easier.
Readers, do you have a question about life in Korea? Do you have a burning question about travel or life in Korea? Do a search first to see if your question has been answered, then send me an e-mail – chrisinsouthkorea AT gmail DOT com.