Grocery shopping is a whole new experience when you’re in South Korea. There are a high number of grocery chains in South Korea, and some of them are truly worth visiting.
Some of the most well-equipped and unique grocery stores in Korea are Lotte Mart, Costco, Homeplus, and Emart. Smaller convenience stores include GS25, 7-Eleven, Ministop, and CU.
What makes each of these grocery stores in South Korea special? What can you purchase here, and where are each of them based? This article will cover all the details.
Here are the 9 Korean Grocery Stores:
1) Lotte Mart
It simply isn’t possible to stay in Korea and not hear or come across Lotte or its products.
This massive company is one of the largest business groups in the country. It is also the group behind Lotte World, Lotte Foods, Lotte Hotel, and the famous Lotte World Tower.
Lotte Mart is the third-largest hypermarket in South Korea right now. You will find a wide range of products here, like groceries, electronics, toys, apparel and so much more.
Plus, many of the items are on huge discounts and offers.
At Lotte Mart, there is a huge selection of brands to shop from. However, Lotte’s own brand is a particular hit. As it is essentially a hypermarket, it has so much more than just groceries.
You can also shop for the top Korean cosmetic brands as Lotte’s K-Beauty section is a treat to visit.
For tourists, the best Lotte Mart location is in Seoul Station. It is situated on the Airport Railway which makes it super convenient. This branch has tons of unique Korean snacks and products too.
Plus, you can get an instant tax refund from the hypermarket, if you have your passport.
Must-try Lotte Mart Products:
Some of the best Lotte products include the Choco Pie, Binch Cookies, 2% Peach Drink, Custard Cream Cake, Milkis Strawberry Drink, and Tteokbokki crackers.
The ready-to-eat food at Lotte Mart is also popular because of its affordability, large quantity, and good taste. In fact, the fried chicken here is as good as in many other popular places in Seoul.
The cheese sausages are also quite delicious.
Out of all the supermarkets in South Korea, Lotte Mart happens to have the best fresh produce. So, if you’re looking for high-quality fruits, vegetables, and meat, you can simply get them from here.
Part of the Shinsegae Group, E-Mart is one of the largest retailers and oldest supermarket chains in South Korea. It was founded back in 1993 and has gained immense popularity over the years.
Emart is one place where you can buy almost anything. With impressive buildings and multiple floors, the shopping experience is simply amazing here.
Whether it’s groceries, cosmetics, clothes, home supplies, gardening tools, pet supplies, toys, or electronics- this supermarket has it all covered.
The best part is, Emart has more than 178 stores across the country. So, no matter where you are, there will be an outlet nearby. This is especially true for larger cities like Seoul, Busan, and Daegu.
If you sign up for a Shinsegae membership, you can earn points and get lots of discounts at Emart. Plus, if you spend more than 50,000 KR WON, you will also get free delivery (in selected areas). One-day delivery is also offered by Emart.
A pocket-friendly brand introduced by Emart is “No Brand” which offers affordable, high-quality products for those on a budget.
Must-try Emart Products:
Food products that are worth trying at Emart include instant coffee, dried seaweed, soju, ramyeon, ginseng chicken soup, hotteok mix kit, and kimchi.
The bakery, deli, and meat section at Emart is also highly loved. There is a broad range of delicious fresh pieces of bread, ready-to-eat salads and meats in different cuts.
The freshly cooked pieces of bread are also amazing. And the entire bakery section smells of warmth and fresh goodness.
Other high-quality Emart products people rave about are nickel-silver pots, nail clippers, and their spoon and chopsticks set.
3) Homeplus Mart
Homeplus is another name that would remind anyone in Korea of ‘grocery shopping’. This company ranks second to Emart when it comes to the number of locations. Homeplus has more than 142 outlets across South Korea.
Due to the sheer number and types of products available at Homeplus Mart for reasonable prices, it is often referred to as the Korean Walmart.
This brand was first established in 1999 by Tesco and Samsung. Originally, the supermarket chain was named Samsung Tesco but then it was renamed to Homeplus.
It is now the second-largest retailer in South Korea. And the store carries everything from groceries, clothing, toys, to furniture, electronics and more.
Homeplus also has a membership plan for its regular customers who can get extra privileges and discounts. You can also get your groceries delivered for free if your shopping is worth more than 40,000 KR WON.
A particularly prominent attraction at Homeplus Mart is the ‘1000 won’ section. You can find this aisle in a separate portion and it has hugely discounted items for 1000 to 5000 won.
It’s super fun to explore this section and you can usually find something good here.
Must-try Homeplus Mart Products:
If you’re looking for the largest selection of spicy and tasty Korean noodles, head over to Homeplus Mart to satisfy your cravings.
Samyang Ramen noodles are one of the most popular Korean noodles on the market.
The price of these noodles is 1000 won at Homeplus, which is relatively cheaper compared to other convenience stores.
Another Korean instant noodles you must try include the Beef Sea Mustard Soup Noodles. However, the options are almost endless and there is a flavor for everyone out there.
Homeplus also has great ready-to-go foods. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can simply grab some fresh sashimi or roast chicken from here. Almost all the options in this range are pretty good.
The toys section at Homeplus is also worth checking out. You will find all types of cute and fun Korean toys for children of all age groups. That too, at very cheap prices.
You might have heard the name Costco as it is a widespread supermarket chain in America.
Although Costco has less than 16 stores in South Korea (9 of them in Seoul) it is still extremely popular among the locals. One issue is that you need a membership to enter Costco.
You can get the Costco membership for a starting price of 33,000 KR WON and it can be used in any Costco location in the world.
You should also know that there are limited payment options if you’re using a card. However, cash is always accepted.
If you’re looking for the latest technology and luxury goods, Costco has a wide range of options. You can even buy the latest iPhone or Dior handbag here.
Products from other countries are also available. If you’re from the USA, you will be able to find many familiar food items.
The supermarket chain is known for being super affordable, especially if you purchase in bulk. In fact, some items can only be purchased in larger amounts.
Costco also has a self-packaging section as well as an indoor playground for kids.
Must-try Costco Products:
Costco Koreo has several unique products you might be interested in trying.
These include terarosa coffee, bibimbap, bulgogi bake, rotisserie chicken, and dried fish- all of which are super tasty.
In the bakery section, you will find croffles; a hybrid of waffles and croissants that are very popular in South Korea. The mini walnut pies (these come in a pack of nine) also have an amazing taste.
Other notable food items include mix-n-match muffins and focaccia.
Costco Korea now stocks the best-selling Mizon All-In-One Snail Repair cream as well. This is an iconic product that does wonders for the skin.
This is the most well-known convenience store chain in Korea. GS25 can be found on almost every street and has more than 14,688 locations across the country.
The store also offers an excellent drinking experience with plenty of soju options.
You will also find picnic tables and wooden chairs outside the stores so you can enjoy a frosty glass of beer or have a steaming hot bowl of ramen in peace.
Some of the best items at GS25 include the Orion Chocopie House, Half Gimbab, Pengsoo Half, Viyott, porridge and strawberry tart.
Interestingly, you can even get frozen, prepackaged steak for 10,000 KR WON.
Another hugely popular convenience store chain is CU. Like GS25, CU can also be found all over South Korea. It is actually owned by BGF Retail Co. The quality of items is quite good at CU as well.
Some of the best food items are their macarons, dumplings with fillings, smoked chicken thighs, sandwiches, and doshiraks.
Their fried chicken snacks are also on another level. In fact, some people say CU has the best-fried chicken among all the convenience stores.
7-Eleven or 7/11 is a convenience store chain originally based in America. And it is found all across the world, especially in Asian countries.
Lotte has partnered with 7-Eleven in South Korea. This means you can use your Lotte Membership in 7-Eleven convenience stores too.
One thing you should know is that 7-Eleven branches are not open for 24 hours like other convenience stores.
Ministop is the less popular convenience store from this list and it also has fewer locations.
It is a part of the Japanese business group ÆON. The first Ministop store opened in South Korea in 1990 in Mok-Dong. It was started as a joint venture with a leading producer, Daesang Corporation.
Just recently, Ministop Korea was acquired by the Lotte Group for $263m.
Emart24 belongs to the Shinsegae Group. This means you can use your Shinsegae membership in the convenience store and get discounts. Most products at Emart24 come from the house brand, Emart.
The most recommended food items here are sweet potato mochi, Bulgogi chicken cupbap, Nongshim Shin Ramyun, cheesy Tteokbokki, and the original sausage.
Korean Convenience Stores
Convenience stores are also a popular concept in South Korea. These shops usually stock smaller items and snacks like instant food, ramen, eggs, drinks, and more.
The best part about these convenience stores is how you can get ready-to-eat sausages, hard-boiled eggs, baked sweet potato, samgak, kimbap, as well as coffee, tea and juices.
Sometimes, you can even stop and eat at the convenience store. Plus, they are usually open 24/7.
So, as the name suggests, these stores are actually very convenient.
You can simply stop here for a 3 AM snack, or have some yummy food on a budget when you’re too tired to visit a restaurant or buy ingredients to cook at home.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular convenience store chains in South Korea:
Small Grocery Stores In Korea
Of course, South Korea is filled with small grocery stores. In bigger cities like Seoul, you will come across these local marts after every few blocks.
These smaller supermarkets are mostly excellent at the fresh produce they provide. You can easily get your supply of veggies, fruits, bread, and meat from these shops.
In fact, it is usually recommended to buy fruits from these small marts as they are relatively cheaper.
Most of the essential items can be found in these local grocery stores. However, if you’re a tourist looking for non-Korean products, you will find a higher number of options in more well-known hypermarkets.
Wrapping things up…
Hypermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience stores are all quite unique in Korea. With their huge buildings, cute interiors, futuristic innovations, there is a lot to explore in these stores.
So, if you’re visiting the country, you should surely pay a visit to Lotte Mart, Emart, or HomePlus and check out the vast variety of Korean and international products there.
We also highly recommend you to try out the ready-made local snacks from the convenience stores and experience this aspect of Korean culture as well. Enjoy your trip to South Korea!