Korea has long been known as a top exporter of technology and automotive products, boasting big names like Samsung and Hyundai. In recent years, however, the East Asian country has become just as well known for its cultural exports. From K-pop to Kimchi, Korean trends are making their way overseas, welcomed by people throughout Europe, the United States, and beyond.
For people seeking unique yet on-trend presents, authentic Korean gifts are fast becoming a favorite. These goods aren’t just “made in Korea,” however. The trendiest exports of the moment are infused with traditional Korean culture, taking ancient traditions, foods, and festivities and transporting them well beyond the island nation’s borders.
The Allure of Korean Gifts
When buying Korean, consumers know to expect carefully crafted goods made from top-quality products. For example, consider the frenzy for Korean beauty products, which have taken the overseas market by storm. In one survey, respondents cited quality and reputation as being key reasons to buy Korean brands.
Respondents even suggested that they saw the Korean items as being better quality and having a better reputation than what they could find in their home country.
Such attitudes explain why people around the world are casting an eye towards Korean gifts and goods in general. Even the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t slowed down the trend, with a 10 percent rise in exports reported in the first 20 days of March 2020, compared to 2019.
Korean Fashion in the Spotlight
Korean fashion is gaining ground in the international style world, with trendsetting publications like Harper’s Bazaar celebrating the country’s style. The magazine highlights elements like ruffles, blush tones, oversized tops, and statement blazers, and provides stunning street shots of people in Seoul and other cities donning these looks.
It’s not just adult fashion being celebrated. Korean kids’ fashion is also getting attention worldwide. Take the hanbok by this online korean shop for example. This traditional dress was originally meant for ceremonies or festivals. It usually consists of a blouse shirt or jacket and wrap-skirt, held together with strips of cloth. Modern models use velcro or similar technology for ease of use.
Korean fashion isn’t just about clothing, though. Jewelry is a major element. Harper’s points to oversized shades as one example. Jade jewelry is also noteworthy, known for its sleek, minimalist appearance. A simple jade ring is an understated accessory that is versatile enough to go with any outfit.
Korean Food Gaining Ground
Koreans aren’t just sharing the contents of their closets with the world. The Korean kitchen is also opening its doors to global populations. Kimchi, a traditional dish made with salted, fermented vegetables, is a prime example. Health experts recognize Kimchi for its nutritious properties.
Kimchi has loads of vitamins A and C and offers protein, vitamin B6, iron, niacin, and fiber. The probiotics in fermented foods like Kimchi can promote gastrointestinal health. At the same time, research shows that a certain bacterium contained in Kimchi combats inflammation in the body and improves immune function.
While Kimchi has been making the rounds in international kitchens for years, makgeolli is a newer discovery in the global culinary community. This is a traditional liquor that can even be made at home with a kit. It’s produced with zero artificial sweetener or additives, made with a base of Korean rice, yeast, and water. It’s also free of genetically modified or artificial ingredients.
Korean Cultural Traditions Sparking Interest
Clothing and food are often part of cultural traditions. It should thus come as no surprise that the world is also awakening to some Korean culture. One excellent example is Doljanchi — a child’s first birthday. While a baby’s first birthday is a big deal anywhere, it’s infused with special meaning in Korea, which once had a very high infant mortality rate. The first is thus considered one of the most important birthdays in the country.
The celebration consists of two segments. The first part consists of prayer. Then, a table of specially prepared foods is laid out. The second part of the celebration is the doljabi this is a sort of game in which various objects from a doljabi set are placed in front of the infant. These have different meanings. Depending on what the baby chooses, this is an indicator of their future.
Coins could mean wealth, for example, while a medallion could indicate high social status. Modern takes on doljabi might “predict” what profession the child will engage in. A stethoscope could mean they will be a doctor, for instance, while a pencil could mean they are destined to become a writer.
Korean Music Still Popular
Last but not least, there’s no way to discuss Korean cultural exports without addressing K-pop. From BTS to BLACKPINK, South Korean bands have gained groupies from all over. The genre itself dates back to the 1990s, with the advent of Seo Taiji and Boys. The trio offered a fusion of American rap and Korean lyrics. Their hit “I Know” was number one in the South Korean singles charts for over 17 weeks.
The 1990s saw a rise of boy groups while girl groups became more prominent in the early 2000’s. Later, Western radio stations started picking up on the K-pop trend. Arguably the South Korean rapper Psy helped the genre make waves with his viral video for “Gangnam Style” in 2012. Since then, K-Pop has retained its popularity in both Asia and the West, with BTS remaining one of its favorites.
A Strong Future Ahead for Korean eCommerce
Given the surging interest in Korean culture, from music to food, clothing, and more, it’s no wonder that online Korean shops are taking off. Korean-based retailers are seeing a growing interest in the global market and increasingly tailoring their websites to meet international demand. Major platforms are now operating not only in Korean but also in other languages, like English.
For people seeking innovative products with some cultural flair, Korean gifts are a solid bet. With a reputation for excellent customer service and top-quality goods, Korean retailers will surely do well in the world marketplace. Just how big of a splash they make remains to be seen.