Korea, with its rich history, traditions, art, and culture, is a brilliant place to vacation and an even better place to hoard Korean gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones.
It has a one-of-a-kind collection of trinkets and locally crafted keepsakes that are authentic and likable by all.
With a few factual titbits, Korean culture references, and ‘who would like this gift the best’ sections, this list has some of the best options that one can consider and choose from.
Related: Korean Traditions
Related: Korean Fashion Style Guide
Top Korean Gifts And Souvenirs 2021
Korean Traditional Patterns – Blankets and Carpets
A prevalent feature of Korean palaces and temples is the vibrant, intricate patterns on ceilings and beams.
These patterns are usually geometric, with healthy splatterings of contrasting colors. These designs, rooted in Korean art and culture, have made theirs onto everyday items.
You will find a large number of trinkets and household pieces tweaked to include these lovely vibrant patterns which make an eccentric addition to your household space.
Blankets, cushion covers, and house mats are popular choices among locals and foreigners alike, as they are a great way to renew and decorate living spaces.
Specialty Korean Tea – Jaekseolcha
Koreans love their morning beverages, and they most definitely swear by tea. Most of them drink at least one cup of tea every day, and with Korea’s verdant plantations, specialty tea leaves make for a great gift.
One of their finest is the ‘Jaekseol-cha’, which is known as the ‘sparrow’s tongue’ because of the shape of the tea leaves that resemble it.
It is a type of black tea that uses young buds of leaves for the flavor, which sets it apart.
Jaekseolcha is also the most expensive type of green tea in the country. So if you’re looking for Korean food souvenirs, this is the best option.
The best part about this tea is that you can brew tea multiple times with the same tea leaves by reusing it.
It is even believed that the flavor is much richer in the second and third cups.
Apart from Jaekseolcha, you can also gift a box of Mugwort Tea which is herbal and medicinal in nature.
Another exotic option would be the Korean Lotus Root Tea which uses dried and finely diced roots for flavor.
To mention Korea and not mention Matcha would be a crime. Their flavor is also used in baking and other experimental drinks.
Korean matcha in particular is versatile, so it would make for a lovely gift for someone who enjoys cooking.
Related: Best Korean Tea Brands
Ginseng is an integral part of Korean traditional medicine and culture.
Widely known for its unique health benefits, Korea’s climate and geography are believed to be the most ideal ones for cultivating the best ginseng.
In fact, wild Ginseng has been a popular trade item in East Asia for centuries.
Interestingly, the Korean word for Ginseng is ‘insam’, which means ‘person’, due to its resemblance to the human form.
The roots can grow upto a length of 60cm, and they are often harvested at their 4 or 6-year mark.
Ginseng can be used for a host of purposes. The traditional ones include using dried red ginseng roots for medicinal purposes.
And the more modern red ginseng extract sticks and high concentration extract bottles are used to brew tea among other things.
Its tea, especially, has a rich taste with great health benefits.
So, Ginseng makes for a great gift for Koreans and Korean lovers alike.
Related: Where To Buy Korean Red Ginseng
Mother of Pearl Artwork and Artisanal Woodwork – Korean Jewellery Boxes
Korea is known for its intricate woodwork and Mother of Pearl artwork.
You will find this traditional Korean handiwork on furniture, dressers, chests, and even walls, and pillars.
Mother of Pearl is an iridescent material that is used to decorate wooden objects.
A staple visual aesthetic, it was used to create patterns significant to Korean culture, geography, and mythology; this includes peacocks, cranes, tigers, mountain and lake scenery.
Today, you will find these designs on smaller objects which make for great gifts. One of the most popular is the Korean jewelry box.
Called ‘boseok-ham’ in Korean, these wooden boxes have mother of pearl artwork, with soft velvety padding inside, and a clasp that keeps the box shut.
These make for a lovely gift for those who wear and value their jewelry.
Korean Alcohol – Premium Soju and Drinkware Set
Soju is Korea’s traditionally prepared and widely consumed alcohol. It is a clear liquor like vodka, but usually not that strong.
Most soju varieties have an alcoholic content that is between 18.5% and 25%.
Soju was traditionally prepared from rice but is now prepared from cheaper ingredients including tapioca, sweet potato, wheat, or barley, and more premium ingredients like ginseng.
This drink is enjoyed neat in a shot glass, or in modern cocktails with a little twist.
If you do plan on going ahead with this option, we suggest you invest a little extra to purchase the finer soju.
These are ones that have been made using premium ingredients and have been aged for about a decade.
You can even purchase an authentic celadon soju drinking set that can be easily found in large department stores and local markets.
Traditonal Korean Board Games
Like any other culture, Koreans have their own set of homegrown, local games which weave their way into festival gatherings and family dinner nights.
A few options would be Yut Nori, traditional card games, or Hwatu (flower battle!). Board games make for a thoughtful (and fun) gift for families with kids who enjoy playing.
Korean Celadon Incense Burner – hoon-ro
Traditional incense burners, called ‘Hoon-Ro’ have been used in Korea since ancient times.
Believed to have roots in Buddhism, which was introduced in the country much before
Christianity took over, these burners remove bad smells and are extremely therapeutic.
Buddhists also believed that they disperse negativity, hence using them in a host of ancestral rituals and ceremonies.
You now get pretty Celadon burners which are handcrafted, with exquisite carvings of flora and fauna such as tigers, rabbits, turtles, cranes, lotuses, and chrysanthemums.
Traditional Korean Masks – tal
Masks, called ‘tal’ in Korean, have long been used in ceremonies, theatres, rituals, and for decoration.
Shamans believed that these seemingly grotesque and gruesome masks could drive away evil spirits.
In plays and dance performances, these masks were used to elicit a specific response from the audience – be it joy, laughter, or fear. Soldiers often wear them as battle masks.
Today, these masks are used as positive talismans, and as regional keepsakes. They are mostly made from alder wood, and handpainted.
They make great gifts from Korea for those who are particularly interested in collecting traditional trinkets from around the world.
Traditional Korean Silk Folding Fan – buchae
Korean silk or hanji by itself is held in high regard by the rest of the world. Its superior quality and exquisite sheen and beauty is nonpareil.
Made from this silk are these authentic hand fans. These fans are of the folding type, for easy portability, and are delicately handcrafted by artisans.
While the bottom part is made from bamboo, making it easy to hold, the silk part of the fan features traditional Korean artwork.
These designs include water lilies, Korean script, or local fauna like cranes and tigers.
These fans are used for a host of purposes and are hence even carried around during the winters.
Apart from serving the predictable purpose of a hand fan, these fans are used as a shade against the sun, as a weapon of war, and as a prevalent prop in traditional Korean dances and plays.
They are even used to hide one’s face from onlookers.
These silk folding fans make for a great addition to your outfit or to reinvent your living space by using these as decoration.
And it’s also among the cutest Korean gifts for a girlfriend!
Traditional Spoon and Chopsticks Set
Spoons and chopsticks are the common and prevalent household items in any Korean’s home.
And with chopsticks gaining popularity even among the west and east, it is always a great idea to buy a pair of traditional chopsticks as a gift for someone.
Korean meals usually consist of a bowl of rice or noodles, a bowl of soup, and a myriad of side dishes.
Traditionally, chopsticks were used for the side dishes and spoons for the main course; but now this practice is also interchangeable.
Buy a wooden or celadon spoon and chopstick set which often come with a cute chopstick holder.
These are great Korean gifts and souvenirs for a wedding!
FAQs – Korean Gifts and Souvenirs
What cute Korean gifts can I buy for my family?
You could pick traditional drinkware or chinaware set for your family. A lovely option would also be rice cakes, local soju, and ginseng.
Board games are a delightful option as well, especially if you are taking them back for kids.
What are the best Korean gifts for my romantic partner?
Jewelry boxes would be an especially good option if they are into jewelry.
Kpop merchandise is a great gift for young couples. Korea is also a leading producer of premium skincare products.
What should I get my young kid from Korea?
The best option would be a traditional Korean handbook doll or teddy!
They come in full attire, in dresses, vests, and suits, and are of excellent quality.
You could even buy a pair of authentic chopsticks as a way to introduce them to the culture.