While lots of expats bring their electronic devices and appliances to Seoul from their home country, most end up having to buy new items as a result of the different voltage in Seoul. It’s better to buy inexpensive items such as hair dryers, blenders or coffee grinders in Seoul. More expensive and well made items from home such as laptops, camera battery rechargers, and so on, can be brought and used with a converter and adapter.
There are plenty of places in Seoul to buy these items, and probably the most convenient stores are Homeplus, Emart or your local department store. They really sell everything.
There are other options for purchasing electronics and appliances, although caution should be exercised. For example, you could buy an Ipod at your local Homeplus for 200,000 won, or you could go to one of the many digital markets around Seoul and bargain for it, paying much less for the same item. You don’t always get what you bargain for, though, so it is a bit less safe buying your appliances or electronics in these areas. While it can be lot of fun to try and get a great price, be a smart shopper. Make sure that the product you are shown is the one that you take from the store. Compare serial numbers with warranty/guarantee information, and make sure to get a receipt and understand the return/exchange/repair policies, if they exist.
As was previously stated, all the main chains – Emart, Homeplus, Lottemart, Shinsigae, etc. – carry appliances, electronics and hardware tools. Indeed, for hardware tools, many expats would only think to go to the hardware department of these stores as you don’t often see “hardware” stores in Korea. In large scale stores like Homeplus, expect to pay between 20,000 won and 200,000 won for most appliances but don’t always expect to find the appliances you’re looking for. For example, a coffee grinder is a foreign concept in Korea as are many other appliances one would have in abundance in Western countries. You will find a lot of gas range stoves, rice cookers, blenders, kimchi fridges (so the kimchi doesn’t make your regular fridge smell bad) and most other items that one would expect to find in an appliance shop.
If you’re looking for tools at one of these stores, go to the hardware section and you will find an assortment of power tools, hand tools, nails, nuts, screws, hammers and just about anything else you might need around the house. For large power tools, expect to pay 100,000 won or more depending on what you’re buying. Smaller items are very inexpensive, rarely costing more than 20,000 won.
Electronics in these stores will cost at least 50,000 won depending on what you’re buying. If you’re looking for a simple MP3 player, you can scrape by at 50,000 won. If you simply want some headphones, you can get a pair for 10,000 won. If you’re looking for a bigger purchase, such as a new camera or a laptop, you can expect to pay at least 500,000 won for the cheapest laptop or 200,000 won for a decent digital camera. That being said, if you’re looking for electronics, there are far better places to buy them in Seoul, which may well be the electronic capital of the world.
Main Chains/Areas for these Items:
Hi Mart: While the electronics, appliances and hardware cost about the same as the products you’d find at Homeplus, the selection is much better and the staff much more knowledgeable (and more likely to speak English, if that’s an issue for you). Hi Mart carries a vast array of brand name electronics, appliances and hardware including but not limited to: Black and Decker, Olympus, Nikon, LG, Samsung and much, much more. There are four locations in Seoul: Songpa-gu, Gangseo-gu, Guro-gu and Gwangjin-gu.
Yongsan Electronics Market: If you love all things digital, you’ll never want to leave the Yongsan Electronics Market. Here you can find anything from hair dryers to back massagers to Ipods to Macbooks to MP3 players to the latest styles in digital cameras. Generally, you can get your electronics, appliances and hardware for up to 50% less than in a proper shop. It may feel a bit shady since it’s unclear where they get all these amazing products and how they are able to sell them so cheaply. The deals are good enough, though, that you’ll quickly forget any moral obligations to Canon or any other big-brand name. To get there, take subway line one to Yongsan Station. Make your way through the station (it’s also a regular train station). The bottom few floors are strictly electronics but as you make your way up the escalators you’ll find just about everything you’ve ever dreamed of… Most shops/kiosks within the market are open from 10 AM to 8 PM.
Techno Mart: A massive shopping complex with over 2000 electronics stores, a movie theatre and a food court, Techno Mart is a popular place for Koreans and expats alike to shop. Prices will be similar to or slightly less than at Hi Mart but you are still capable of getting great deals on electronics, appliances and other items. Open from 10 AM to 8 PM every day. To get there, take subway line two to Gangbyeon Station. The shopping complex is located next to the Dong Seoul Bus Station.