I’m not a crazy shopper but one thing I do find Korea good for (besides cosmetics, alcohol and choco-pie) is sportswear.
While outdoor sports are pretty hot in Korea, outdoor sporting fashion is even hotter. Get on the subway and you won’t be hard pressed to find a few ahjummas and ahjosshis (middle-aged men and women) decked out in the latest waterproof, breathable, sweat-wicking hiking suits complete with boots and sticks. Even for a little stroll around the neighbourhood park, it’s not uncommon for Koreans to don five hundred dollars’ worth of gear.
With such a massive market, it’s not surprising that Korea is overflowing with sports stores. The intense competition between local names like Kolon Sport, Redface and Blackface (haha) as well as foreign brands Northface, K2 and Black Yak means you won’t be short of choice.
For ordinary walking shoes and running shoes, my first stop is ABC Mart when it has a storewide sale. I got the leftmost pair of Adidas at 60,000 won in Busan and the one on the right for 90,000 won in Seoul.
For more specialised hiking gear I dropped into Redface which seems to have more affordable items compared to the premium brands. This pair of waterproof hiking boots (below) and lightweight windbreaker were 90,000 a piece. The Redface staff were also happy to give me a whole bunch of socks as freebies, don’t be shy to ask. If the store you visit doesn’t have the right size or colour, it’s worth asking them to ring up another store, as it’s a big chain.
While there are sports stores at any major subway station and shopping mall, it’s also pretty cool to visit the approach to any of the popular mountains such as Bukhansan, where you’ll see up to ten different brands clustered together.
What were your best sportswear buys in Korea? Leave a comment below!
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Prices provided in Korean won or US dollars.