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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Collecting Korea: Tourism Souvenirs

This was my second trip to Korea, and I did most of my "traditional" souvenir shopping on my prior trip. If you follow my other blog, you know how frustrated I got on this vacation trying to go to places I missed before, and in the end I only ended up at one or two new tourist destinations. But here are the souvenirs I picked up this time.
 Other than Gangnam Style, Korean Pop isn't exactly "known" in America. But Japan enjoys the pretty boys and ladies of K-Pop groups, seemingly as much as its own bubblegum-based marketing machines like AKB48. Girls Generation is a favorite of one of my coworkers, so I bought a couple goodies for him.
 I'm not sure exactly how "legal" this merchandise is. I get the feeling that intellectual property rights aren't too important in Korea. Things like posters, note pads, postcards, pins, and calendars are found fairly easily and they don't appear to be licensed. They still carry a pretty high price tag, surprisingly. By the way, the "BEST" sticker you see is not an indication of popularity or quality. It's the name of the store I bought these from.
 I bought this squishy magnet that looks like a delicious donut. No reason, it just looked cool.
Speaking of shopping, you can find all kinds of goods in Korea. (Knockoff) handbags, clothing, and cosmetics seem to be the most popular items my students mention. But it's certainly not worth the trip from America just to find some cheeap Louis Vuitton items.

At some point, probably in a couple months after I finish my Golden Week trip posts from last year, I'll describe the flea markets in Japan on my other blog. But I will be sharing a couple finds from flea markets and I bought a few more things that really helped make this trip worthwhile after a very poor start.
I had to change my itinerary for every single day I was in Korea due to weather or crowds. I ended up going to the Zoo, as originally planned, but on a different day. That was a good call, because I spent about five hours there!
 The biggest disappointment was Lotte World. Not because the park itself sucked, because the theming was fun and the rides I got on were fun. But the first day I went there was a very light rain, so the outdoor rides were closed all day, and two of the best indoor rides were closed for maintenance too. I tried to revisit later in the week, but that coincided with major vacation time in Korea and the park was absolutely packed!

This is a pop-up postcard. One thing about Korean tourist destinations is a lack of branded goods. US amusement parks have shirts, cups, magnets, and all kinds of other goods. It's tough to find location-branded goods in Korea for amusement parks, zoos, museums, and other tourist destinations. The gift shops are packed with generic goods - lots of stuffed toys or other toys for kids, jewelry, and some omiyage (food souvenirs). There has been one or two branded goods to choose from at any given location; Lotte had two or three postcards to choose from, or a day pass lanyard badge.
 I did buy one "basic" Korean souvenir, a sogo. This is a traditional Korean drum which is held in one hand by the handle, and hit with a stick. I didn't get a stick, as this is mainly meant for decorative purposes. I found this at one of the flea markets.
 Another stop worthy of an entire post is Incheon Airport, the main international airport in South Korea. There are good things about the airport as well as bad. One of the hidden gems is a small, free historical museum located in the back international terminal. At the end of the museum is a table with some activities. There are various stamps, including Hangul character stamps to write your name. I was worried about time (it turns out I didn't need to be) so I didn't ask for help, instead using the letter translation guide to help make my name. I don't have much of an understanding of Hangul, so I was off a bit in how to form syllables.

In Japanese (katakana) my name is "ライアン" (Laian). In Korean, I used the same characters (la-i-a-n) to make something similar to "라ㅣㅏᆫ" seen above (lai-an). It turns out my name should be "라이언", which is Laieon (la-ie-on).
 The museum also had a block rubbing station, and I chose to copy some text. I didn't do a great job, so it's difficult to see; I should have probably done the picture instead. Or spent more time on the activity. It's still fun!
 The highlight experience of my trip also came at Incheon Airport. Inside the terminal, once you pass security, there is a traditional gifts store that also includes a visitors center of sorts run by the Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation. They allow you to participate in hands-on activities to create traditional Korean goods. I chose to make the hanji paper box. Hanji is a traditional Korean paper used in all kinds of decorative crafts.
Completely free, mind you, I was given the box made of a very thick cardboard (it seems like it'll last quite some time) and paper, plus traditional potato glue. You can eat it, though I didn't try. Anyway, I learned how to paste in the paper properly and fold it so that everything fit together properly. For someone with very little drawing or painting skill, this was a good way to do something without creating an embarassingly elementary design. Because it's something I made, and experienced, I consider this to be my favorite souvenir and memory of my trip - and it was at the airport!

What do you buy when you travel?


  1. those k pop girls look like babes to me!

  2. those k pop girls look like babes to me!

  3. K-Pop girls are attractive, but most of them have had work done, and something like 25% of Korean women have had plastic surgery!