Buying Groceries In Korea Part 1: Online Shopping

A good housekeeper is nothing without good resources and in turn, good resources are nothing without being utilized effectively. This is a tricky business when in a different country than that of your birth, particularly one that uses a different language. I have only lived in Korea a couple of years and am by no means an expert on the subject, but from the beginning I have been charged with grocery duty. No one taught me and I learned on my own which resources were worth utilizing and which weren’t. This blog is the first of two parts on grocery shopping, the second part focusing on shopping in physical stores and markets.  So without further ado, I present my official guide to grocery shopping online in Korea.

Online shopping, particularly for food and household items, is a very convenient and economical way to get what you need and therefore is utilized by many Koreans. Because of both the good public transportation systems, lack of space and closeness of businesses to homes in Korea, not many people own cars and those who do don’t always use them on a regular basis because it can be inconvenient.

Going to the store, loading up your car with groceries and taking them home isn’t a commonplace practice. Even if people do, many apartment buildings do not have elevators. If a building is under six floors, it will usually not have an elevator. We ourselves live on the fifth floor of our building so anything we buy we’ve got to lug up the stairs. Most people go to a neighborhood mart or some such place to buy a few things every other day or so, so it’s easier to carry home, though some larger grocery stores offer 배달 (paedahl) which means delivery.

In addition to all this, the prices of food and household items online is often cheaper than the prices in the physical stores. All the more reason for an increasing number of Koreans to turn to online shopping as a way to save time, energy and money. As a chronically ill person I find this way of doing thins to be such a help. I still go to the mart for things here and there, but I no longer have to designate a day’s worth of energy to shop for and carry groceries long distances and up stairs. The following are the most popular sites for grocery shopping in Korea.

Coupang Coupang is famous for it’s friendly delivery staff and 로켓배송 (Rocket Delivery) which arrives usually within 24 hours of the qualifying order being placed. It’s also a good place to find new, trendy  skincare products from brands you can’t find in stores. The site is only in Korean but is otherwise easy to navigate. If you don’t know Korean have a someone help you with the checkout process. Highly recommended.

쓱 SSG Emart – 쓱 (pronounced ssuk)  is a Korean language onomatopoeia which means secretly or sneakily. This is, I assume, referring to their quick and convenient delivery. This site is also only in Korean. With 쓱 you can choose the date and time of delivery and be notified via texts of when they arrive (Coupang does this, too, but I find 쓱 to be more precise and informative). The delivery men are respectful and if you are not home when they deliver they will either call you to find out where you are or just put everything in a huge paper shopping bag and leave it at your door. Almost everything comes at the same time.Their selection, particularly of imported items on Emart Traders, is growing as they become more popular. They also feature three of their own brands: the Emart generic brand, a brand called NoBrand of basic food and household items and Peacock, a brand which seems to be trying to do something like Trader Joe’s in America. Both generic brands are fine for your essentials. I’ve had fun ordering things by the Peacock brand. Everything by them has been delicious and I think they’ve done a good job with some of the ethnic foods. However, for some basic items the price is, in my opinion, too expensive for something that tastes only marginally better then the generic brand (like the kimchi).
Also, while 쓱’s produce is a good price and they have amazing, gigantic kale, you can buy those things more cheaply at a local produce stand or watch the sales at a bigger mart.

G-Market– G-Market is more of an kind of deal with groceries only making up a fraction of what they sell. The only drawing point of G-Market for me is that they have partnered with HomePlus, which I frequent for their cheap selection of basic American cheeses like blocks of MeadowGold Colby Jack and the like. Other foreigners might like it because it has an English (and Chinese) version of the site and you can use their PayPal feature at checkout. However, the delivery men are not the nicest and it’s not as popular as it once was. The HomePlus store works similar to SGG Emart but I haven’t actually ordered anything yet. I usually just go to my local HomePlus. I hope that SGG Emart will have more and cheaper cheeses soon I can just get them that way.

These are the main sites for groceries. The way I’ve been doing it lately is using SGG Emart for all the food purchases, with the exception of most produce, and Coupang for household item purchases (which are sometimes paid from my food money account).

Ordering groceries this way is also great when I’m not feeling well and can’t make it to the mart often, since that includes the 5 flights of stairs and anywhere from a 5 to 15 minute walk. This is usually not a problem but it’s really nice to have the online ordering backup there just in case. Then I can focus my energies on actually preparing the food!

I hope this blog was helpful and keep a lookout for my next blog on shopping the marts and markets!