5 wacky souvenirs from Korea

5 wacky souvenirs from Korea

Enough ginseng and kimchi. Take home some more inventive presents for friends and family

1. Heel inserts

Korean shoe insertsIf you always thought those five more centimeters would help you score, here's your chance!

These simple and cheap marvels literally raise the wearer three to 10 centimeters, giving that all-important physical and mental boost.

Mainly used in Korea as soft and spongy heel inserts for sole and ankle support, they're also a big seller for both men and women in need of an extra lift. Shove in a pair or two before leaving Korea, slip them into your sneakers and tell friends that, hey, maybe all that kimchi did pay off.

Price: The prices differ depending on quality but basically cost from ₩3,000 to ₩12,000.

Where to get them: The most convenient place is from street vendors in popular fashion districts including Myeongdong and Hongdae, online shoe shops such as ABC Mart or shopping websites such as Gmarket.

2. Heukchae (hair dust)

Heukchae Hair DustNeed a cover-up? Sprinkle some heukchae and you’re good to go.

Wigs can be great, but for those who need just a little bit of a cover-up, heukchae is the way to go.

Normally coming in a small bottle or in spray form, heukchae is made of small bits of artificial or real hair dyed in suitable colors, mostly black and brown in Korea.

After sprinkling it on problem areas, a glue spray is applied to make sure the lightweight heukchae doesn’t fly away. A sprinkle of the dark pixie dust goes a long way, hassle-free and more natural than bulky wigs.

Price: Depending on the brand and type of heukchae, prices range from ₩5,000 to ₩50,000 per bottle.

Where to get them: The easiest place is via local Internet shopping malls such as Gmarket, but you can also find heukchae at major department stores such as Lotte, Hyundai and Shinsegae. Local wig shops, hairdressers and barbershops carry heukchae, as well.

3. Italian towels

Italian towelsPresenting the Italian towel straight from Korea, not Italy, guaranteeing softer, smoother skin every time.These rectangular, coarse and mostly green bath mittens may feel too strong for the skin at first, but there’s nothing quite like them.

Named after the material, viscose rayon, from Italy, Italian towels are easy to use, cheap and effective, guaranteeing soft, smooth skin every wash. These mitten-form exfoliators make for a great gift from the land of public bathhouses and strong-armed masseuses.

Price: ₩1,000 to ₩5,000, depending on size and quality.

Where to get them: Convenience stores, department stores and public bathhouses.

4. Back scratcher

Korean back scratchersWhether you’re a people person or a loner, nothing can satisfy your deepest desires faster than the good old back scratcher.


The first back scratcher is known to have originated from the Inuit, but it managed to become a trustworthy companion in Korean households throughout the years.

It may look like an elongated version of Captain Hook’s trusty hand, but for many it’s the only thing that will satisfy those small, but desperate, needs.

Price: ₩3,000 to ₩10,000, depending on size and shape.

Where to get them: Shops and street stalls that sell traditional goods and souvenirs such as Insa-dong, or Hanok Village near Namsan, central Seoul or any department store around the country.

5 Idol socks

Korean idol socks Keeping your favorite celebs close … perhaps too close?

If you want to make a fashion statement and still show that you have that eye for young and hip stars, buy a pair of “idol socks.”

Idol celebrities have been in the forefront of the Korean wave, the ripple of trends that have brought Korean music, fashion and entertainment to the hearts and homes of Asia. Now fans can keep their stars close … to their feet.

Price: ₩1,000 to ₩10,000

Where to get them: Fashion districts Myeongdong and Hongdae have great varieties to choose from, while street vendors near Ewha University and Shinsa-dong offer various faces, as well. Online shopping malls such as Gmarket or 11st Street also have large selections.

Rachel Sang-hee Han is a freelance writer for CNN Travel. 

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