Internet shopping is relatively very easy, safe, and convenient to do in Korea, being the world’s best in Internet speed. A few years ago, registration for Internet shopping users was difficult for foreigners, as online shoppers had to register with their resident registration numbers. So, as international residents, we were limited in using these kinds of services. Nowadays, we only need to confirm our identification with our phone numbers, so everyone, international residents along with Koreans, can register rather easily on any website.
Internet shopping in Korea offers diverse services, from buying clothes, to services like baby item rentals and even supermarket delivery; all can be acquired with a click of a button. Big online shopping sites like 11st (11번가) and GMarket are very popular among international residents as they have various language options. Payments can be made by credit cards and real-time bank transfers, and completed easily either online, on your computer, or with your phone.
Here are my personal tips if you decide to shop online:
- Check the seller’s reviews. The higher the star rating, the better. You can also check the seller’s information through the option 판매자정보 (usually available on the tab next to the item information). You can check their business registration number and whether their office is located in Korea (this tip requires you to know a little bit of Korean language).
- Check the question and answer (Q&A) section of each item. If you see regular questions, like when the items will be delivered, and the answer from the seller is prompt (see the reply date), it is more likely that you can trust the seller. If the Q&A is filled with unhappy notes and complaints about delivery time and returns or exchanges, you better avoid this seller and find a different seller instead. Extra tip: Even if you don’t know much Korean, unhappy messages are usually indicated by the fact that they were sent by the same customers for an extended period of time. The messages tend to be long, and filled with lots of question marks and even exclamation points. Even if the poster keeps it hidden, you can see if they were posted by the same person by checking their ID.
- Check the return and exchange policy. Usually the store will offer a seven-day exchange or refund policy that can be done directly through the website. Or you might have to call the seller first to make the necessary arrangements. Be aware that if you have received the item and did not confirm that you have decided to keep the item (구매결정), the system will automatically change after seven days, after which you cannot make any claim. Usually undergarments and food products are non-returnable.
- Compare prices because sometimes the same seller will sell their items on different sites at the same prices, but because of the different discount coupons offered by different sites, you may be able to purchase it at a somewhat cheaper price.
Cash Receipt (현금영수증)
If you pay for items in cash while shopping online, which includes immediate bank transfers, you can claim a cash receipt. You have to provide either your resident/alien registration number or your phone number before making a payment. Cash receipts are useful when you have to fill out your year-end tax forms because a portion of your cash purchases can be refunded by the government.