If you read our illustrated guide to couples’ holidays in Korea, you will have learned that White Day in Korea is “traditionally” when women receive candies and gifts from men. But who cares about gender roles and modern conventions anymore? Celebrate this couples’ holiday with a homegrown gift suggestion for everyone on your list.
For the Writer
What better way to store the half-dozen unfinished manuscripts she carries around? It’s also a great conversation starter. Need other options? There’s a recycled tote bag for everyone from architects to dreamers to cosmonauts. Tote bag, 14,500 won at MMMG.
For the Special Man
Keep him fresh, literally, with Hidden Agenda designer intimates for him. To show you really care, enroll your honey in Hidden Agenda’s “fresh underwear” subscription program. The membership provides one to three new pieces of best-selling underwear each month. As an added bonus, VIPs will get first dibs on new arrivals, two weeks before they’re available to the public. As if their underwear line wasn’t sexy enough, Hidden Agenda recently launched their Boutique Candle Collection. These custom-blend scents made from 100% natural soy come in three blends to keep you covered (or not) all day: Twilight, Dusk, Dawn. Underwear usually run 22,000–32,000 won. Website may be slightly NSFW.
For the Amateur Cook
SAVE | Ramyeon cookery
From kitchen gas range to camp fires, you’ll find this iconic copper-toned pot all across Korea. There’s probably some scientific data that explains how the properties of copper help conduct high heat optimal for cooking noodles and flavoring the broth, but we just like to think that ramyeon (ramen) just tastes better in one of these. Tip: The smallest size of these pots is perfect for exactly one serving of ramyeon. They’re only a few thousand wons supermarkets, and sometimes even given away as a promotional gift if you buy a 12-pack of beer. Looking to make an impression? We also like this nifty Lock & Lock version with a bright yellow handle, measurement marks, chopstick holders in the lid and handy pouring spout. Tip: Package the pot with a 5-pack of your favorite ramyeon for extra points.
SPLURGE | Ttukbaegi (뚝배기)
Think of it as the Korean Le Crueset, but more proletarian. Koreans mostly use the ttukbaegi to make piping hot soups and stews, but they also double as casserole pans (if you have the luxury of owning an oven). Single ttukbaegis are available everywhere from small houseware shops to luxury department stores and run between 15,000 to 25,000 won.
For the Person Who Works Standing
From teachers to food service employees, those who spend the majority of their day on the go and on their feet deserve a little R&R. Massages in Korea aren’t as dirt-cheap as they may be in other parts of Asia, but Chinese import The Foot Shop is by far the most affordable and comfortable (and completely not shady!) massage franchise in Seoul. Don’t speak Korean? Don’t worry, neither do most of the masseurs. If your sweetie is particular about their massages, tell him to look for relevant vocab (“lighter!”) often posted inside the dressing rooms. Receive discounts to individual Foot shops by becoming a member of that branch (membership simply requires that you buy a pre-paid card which go towards future services). The Foot Shop is located across many major Seoul districts, but they’re individually-owned, so membership is exclusive to each branch.
For the Person Who Has No Time
You can’t buy time, but you can buy something to help the busybody manage it. It’s well into 2012, so if you’re lucky, you might be able to snag a discount on these Yangji planners. Purchasing a Korean planner that has every national holiday highlighted in red (and even marks the obscure ones like Taekwondo Day) is useful for life in Korea. Yangji is one of the most prevalent brands, and we appreciate it for the map of Korea, mini-travel guides, perforated corners and the little words of wisdom and axioms at the bottom of each page (sometimes even in English!). 2,500–25,000 won at Hottracks in Kyobo Bookstores.
For the Ahjumma
Anything hot and red: Ondol (온돌) and hwang-toe (황토, loess or red clay) are two Korean indulgences that will never get old, especially if you are. Look for muddy orangish pajamas, pillows and heated mats at outdoor markets, big supermarts, department stores and even online at Gmarket (available in English!).
For the Social Butterfly
For your friend who likes to know what’s going on, who-when-and-where, nothing beats a subscription to English-language magazine. Sure, these titles are normally free at most Itaewon stomping grounds, but there’s nothing like getting a glossy in the mail every month. Show your support English-language media in Seoul: Subscribe to Seoul Selection | Subscribe to 10 Magazine | Subscribe to Groove
For the Sports Fanatic
You can find a gift for any occasion at MMMG, the spacious design and lifestyle store/cafe in Itaewon. Find their designs too girly? For the sports enthusiast, the football pouch might not be a bad alternative to a murse.
For the Musical Buff
Nanta and Miso can be fun the first time, but when you’ve run out of options, try local productions like Ppallae (빨래, or Laundry) and Finding Mr. Destiny (김종욱 찾기). We promise that you’ll enjoy these smaller shows, even if you can’t understand a single word Tip: Read the synopses prior to attending the shows, and for the latter, watch the movie of the same name with subtitles before attending the show.
For the Design Maven
Our favorite design stores include A-Land, 10×10 (these cute luggage tags make great gifts for travelers) and I Think So, 10×10’s more muted, select line. See their portfolio here.
For the K-Pop Acolyte
SAVE | Clearly, socks with Gong Yoo’s (공유) face printed on them. It doesn’t get better than that.
SPLURGE | If you’re willing to shell out some wons to see K-pop in person, head to Olympic Park on March 24 and 25 where you can catch the boy band Shinhwa put on their “comeback” Grand Tour concert. Just two nights only (March 24, 25), and most good seats are already sold out, so book now. Olympic Park Gymnastics Gymnasium in Olympic Park in Songpa-gu. Tickets available via Interpark.
For the Inveterate Foodie
When in Seoul, eat like the Seoulites do. Even better, learn how to make Korean food. O’ngo Food offers a plethora of classes in English. Of the upcoming sessions, we’d recommend taking on something more practical like sundubu stew (as opposed to bulgogi, which is delicious but not standard, everyday fare). Specially-priced expat classes available on Saturdays! Classes start at 65,000 won.
Readers: Tell us about the best White Day present you’ve received in the comments below!