South Korea: Travel Tips [Part 1]



Moving to South Korea?

Everyone has different ideas about what to bring when traveling to a foreign country. I’ve been living in Korea on and off for four years, and I’ve come to notice the things that are difficult to live without. Things have changed quite a bit since I first moved here in 2008, but there are still some things I would like to recommend.

The following are my (Jem) personal tips for those moving to South Korea:

1. Bring your own medicine – I would bring a bottle of many basic medicines. Unlike the USA, you simply cannot buy medicine off the shelf and have to ask for it in a pharmacy.

If you are new to Korea and cannot speak the language well, it’s hard to communicate perfectly what you need. Even a dictionary might not be able to help in this situation. I would bring a few bottles of basic medicines: pain medicine, cold medicine, antacid, heart burn pills, etc.

2. Bring your own towel – Towels are small. A towel in Korea is the size of a hand towel in the USA. Luckily, this situation has improved but I find the cost of the larger towels expensive (12,000 won + equivalent to $12 USD) I found it a little uncomfortable at first to use many small towels than 1 big towel.

3. Bring your own blanket – This would have to be your own choice, as a blanket is not exactly light in a suitcase. Comforters are very expensive in Korea. For a bedding set, they often run 80,000 won (80 USD) and up. If you are staying for only a few months, this can seem really expensive!? Because you know that will be hard to bring home!

Every time I have brought my own blanket. Recently, I was able to pick up a cheap comforter at E-mart for 20,000 won (20 USD) but it was the sale price.

4. Learn how to dispose of your trash – Throwing out your trash is a careful system. Regular trash, food trash, and recyclables must all be carefully divided and disposed of. When you enter your new home, don’t forget to ask where these places are (they may be in different spots).

5. You cannot register for a cell phone until you are in the country for 3 days.  – Rules are rules. You have to wait a few days before purchasing a cell phone. When you go, be sure to bring your passport.

6. Apply for your ARC (Alien Registration Card) as soon as possible – You need it for everything. Go to your local branch, don’t forget two passport photos, your passport, proof of employment (if you’re a worker), and 20,000 won for the application fee. The application will be there in the Immigration Office. You have to apply within 90 days of arrival, and it can take up to 3 weeks to receive.

7. Bring your own deodorant – Though deodorant is growing in popularity in Korea, it’s usually a lightweight formula, spray deodorant, or something just not strong enough for my stinky self. If you sweat a lot and already need deodorant, I recommend bringing your own.

8. If you have large feet, bring your own shoes – Ladies, over a size 7-8 in the USA? Bring them! Men, over a size 10? Bring them! Not to say there are not places in Korea that don’t sell ‘large size shoes’ but your options will be extremely limited and you will be paying double for them.

9. Learn how to read Korean. – Speaking Korean comes later, but learning how to read Korean will help you even to identify English words written in Korean. You can learn to identify basic places like 약국 (Pharmacy), 노래방 (Karaoke), 식당 (Restaurant). Of course, many places will also have signs in English.

10. Be prepared to drink – I rarely drank before coming to Korea. Drinking is a big part of the culture. Prepare your liver and enjoy making some friends!



Molang… too much shopping!

I’m a big fan of the Korean character Molang. Molang is just a small drawing – not a cartoon or comic book character. But I am absolutely in love with this character. I found out Molang has an online shop.

What!? I went crazy. I spent 40,000 won on Molang goods. I got this blanket to wear, a neck pillow, 4 fans, and a shopping bag. I can’t be stopped. But I am a happy girl!

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Jem’s Favorite Mask Packs [Part 1]

I am Jem and I am obsessed with mask packs. Even if I already have 100 at home, I cannot be stopped from purchasing more. I think I may be on a mission to try every type of mask pack. When I say mask pack, I am referring to those adorable (frightening?) sheets you can put on your face to improve the condition of your skin.

A mask sheet is normally a cotton sheet which has been soaked in a magical elixir which is good for your skin. The plants and herbs which are included in the pack vary by product and type.

I’m on a mission. A mission to try all of the major brands. Until that day comes, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite mask packs.

I usually apply a mask pack in the morning for 20 minutes before applying makeup. It makes the skin moist and helps the makeup look dewy!

Mask 1: Black Dual Mask <Wrinkle Energy> By: SCINIC

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This two-piece mask is black as illustrated in the photo below. Many mask packs are normally white or brown in color, but I find that black masks seem to have a lot of great effects. What I like about the two-piece system – unlike other masks, the bottom half of this mask also covers your neck. You get some anti-aging power on your chin and neck as well!

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Ingredients include black beans and charcoal for healing the skin.

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The regular line of Scinic Products are great too, but I love the black masks the best. The light red packaging is for ‘wrinkle energy’ (Anti-Aging) and the blue is for moisturizing and whitening. The other four above are also very great!

The black masks retail for 2,500 won. The other masks retail for 1,500 won per mask.

Mask: Hydrogel Mask By: Innisfree

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There are five types of hydrogel care masks offered by innisfree. These are great and cooling, but a little bit slippery to apply. One of the difficulties of the gel masks is that if you have fingernails, you can easily slice through the mask while trying to peel it from its plastic casing. Besides the difficulty of getting it on, I love the results of this mask. Soft, subtle skin that has a glow. I have tried all of the masks above, with my favorite being the mushroom, listed as “Total Care”.

Innisfree products are very natural and do not contain many skin irritants. Let’s look at some of the ingredients for success:

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Raspberries, dandelions, mugwort, selfheal, sable, and other types of herbs that I can’t seem to find the English name!

Either way, this is a fantastic mask if you can handle the slipperiness.

Mask 3: Real Nature Mask By: The Face Shop

Cheap and wonderful! The best thing about these masks is that they are effective but also cheap!!

They usually retail for 1,000 won per mask, but they often have 5 + 5 or 10 +10 sales where you can purchase the mask for 500 won or less each! YES! 10 masks for 5,000 won? I’m using them on a daily basis.

I’ve included my two favorites: Acai Berry and Blueberry. However, depending on your skin needs, you may want to go for another choice.

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What choices? All of these choices! The names are written in English already, so less work for me! ❤

I love Acai Berry, Blueberry, Pomegranate, and Rice.

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Mask 4: Faith in Face ‘After Shower Look’ By: Faith in Face (Available at Olive Young)

It was hard to find photos of this pack, but it is a very nice one. They are a bit on the pricier side compared to other masks at Olive Young (3,500 won per mask) but they are very effective.

If you are looking for that ‘dewy’ look, then look no further. This mask keeps my skin moist ALL DAY. Looking fresh all day. Just as promised. Actually the entire line of Faith in Face masks are great (including gel eye patches ‘Eye Am Not Tired’ – instant magic!) but this one stands out as my favorite.

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Looking fresh all day!

That’s it for Jem’s Favorite Mask Packs … Part 1? More to come as I explore more wonderful, wonderful masks ❤

Clean Sweep – a look into Jem’s house!

Clean Sweep

A Spring Look at Organizing in Seoul Spaces

I was featured in Seoul Magazine after being interviewed by a friend (Deanne who is named below) who took some photos of my house. It’s true – I’m obsessed with organizing. The rest of the article can be found here:

Here’s a copy of the article and peek into my house!

Written by Deanne Nguyen


 Spring-cleaning: the sound of wind chimes to some but the din of blue bells to others. In the wake of the big seasonal scrub-down, which is likely to take longer than you think, it’s time to consider, out of laziness (or efficiency!), if and how we can avoid it altogether.

Worldly origins

Top-to-bottom clean-outs have mixed origins, depending the region of the world, but they all seem based around the arrival of spring. In an older, vacuum-less time with coal-heated homes, windows and doors were kept closed in cold weather for heat conservation, meaning certain types of cleaning had to be suspended. So in Korea, where such an indoor-inducing winter exists, spring-cleaning is a necessity in order to dust off the devils of winter.

Adapted approaches

However, there are some out there who don’t just do spring cleaning, but something else known as “daily tidying,” each with their own variations.

Enter the spotless loft of Dean and Jem, which they maintain “little by little”—everyday. “We both are really clean to begin with,” laughs Jem (aren’t we all). Dean adds a-matter-of-factly, “It [the apartment] just tells me what needs to be cleaned.” While they’ve “never had an argument over cleaning,” their closets are another matter. “I don’t buy or keep things I don’t use or need,” says Dean. However, Jem’s take is to “cram it all in and try to make it work.” And pink, lots of pink. Safe to say, each still has their own domain.



Korean Cosmetics Shopping Guide

Complete Korean cosmetics shopping guide

The most coveted souvenirs from the land obsessed with snail guts, vibrating foundation … and beauty

Originally from – Jem What do you think of some of these products?

korean cosmetics

According to an official survey, cosmetics are the top items tourists want to buy in Korea.

With the world’s biggest obsession with plastic surgery and some of the fastest-evolving beauty technology, spas and cosmetic lines in the world, South Korea is a bona fide beauty destination.

According to a government survey, the items tourists want to purchase the most while visiting are Korean beauty products.

With good reason. Korean cosmetic brands introduce products made from exotic ingredients seemingly every month — Jeju Island volcanic clay, soybeans, traditional Korean medicine and, of course, snail guts.

Cool concept brands debut each year. In 2012, it was Frostine, “the world’s first refrigerated skincare line.”

Of foreign tourists, Chinese and Japanese shell out for Korean beauty products the most. According to Amorepacific, the country’s largest cosmetics company, with 40 percent market share, Chinese tourists accounted for a whopping 40.1 percent of total domestic sales in 2011, while Japanese tourists accounted for 9.1 percent.

“We see Chinese customers buy three to five sets of the Sulwhasoo Timetreasure line at a time as gifts,” says Amorepacific spokesperson Sunghae Kweon. Priced at US$886, Timetreasure is the most expensive line in the cosmetic group’s portfolio.

Here’s what to snap up while you’re in town. Incheon duty free is the one exception we’ll make to our strict ban on buying gifts at the airport.


One beauty editor’s top pick.Iope Bio Essence Intensive Conditioning

“This was one of the hottest new items that debuted last year,” says Yumi Cho, beauty editor of “Woman Joongang” magazine.

Cho puts Iope’s Bio Essence at the top of her must-have list of skin products.

Meant to be used after toner and before moisturizer, “the effect is amazing — it smooths rough skin,” says Cho.

The men’s essence is massively popular with the Korean gents, and can be used in place of toner. It’s a great gift for women and men in their twenties and thirties.

Women’s essence: ₩36,000 (US$33) for 84ml, ₩60,000 (US$55) for 168ml, men’s essence: ₩42,000 (US$38) for 145ml; available at most duty free stores;

Great gift for moms.O HUI age recovery super anti-aging essence

One of the higher-end Korean cosmetic brands, O HUI spent two years developing its anti-aging line using collagen type III, also known as baby collagen, as an ingredient, which is supposed to make the skin return to childlike softness. Women go nuts for this line.

₩120,000 (US$109) for 45ml, available at most department stores and duty free stores;

Don’t forget to try the capsule packs, as well.innisfree it’s real mask

Here’s an interesting fact: When North Korea conducted its nuclear test in February and the world reeled in shock, the top keyword searched on South Korea’s main portal site was innisfree, due to the fact that the plant-based cosmetics brand was having a sale that day.

The innisfree masks come in a variety of options, work well and are cheap (during sales the company promotes buy-10-get-10-free deals). Recommended varieties: royal jelly and Jejubija.

innisfree also carries sleeping masks, which come in tiny capsule-like containers that make cute, fun gifts.

₩950 (US$1) per mask; innisfree has stores on almost every other street. Myeong-dong flagship: Jung-gu Myeong-dong 1-ga 64-2, Seoul; +82 2 776 0117;

Comes with a fresh, natural scent.innisfree olive real cleansing foam/cleansing tissue

Made with organic olive extract, innisfree’s organic olive real cleansing foam cleanses thoroughly without leaving oily residue, and has a lovely natural scent.

The same goes for its cleansing sheets, which are great for travel: Ziploc-bag a sheet for each day you’re away, and use just before the cleansing foam.

Tip: the sheets don’t work all that well with waterproof eye makeup.

Cleansing foam: ₩10,000(US$9) for 150ml; cleansing tissue: ₩5,000 (US$4.50) for 30 sheets; innisfree has stores on almost every other street. Myeong-dong flagship: Jung-gu Myeong-dong 1-ga 64-2, Seoul; +82 2 776 0117;

World’s first cleansing jelly?VDL NAKED Cleansing Oil Cream (Strong)

Launched in 2012, VDL’s flagship store is located on the trendy tree-lined Garosugil in Gangnam.

Judging from the matte colors and font it’s using, the brand seems to be channeling M.A.C., but has dreamed up some innovative products of its own.

Top recommendation: the Cleansing Oil Cream (Strong) is a clear jelly that spreads smoothly over skin and wipes off easily. All traces of even the most stubborn of waterproof mascaras are obliterated, and you don’t have to deal with the dripping of oil cleansing products.

It’s a good gift for women in their twenties — the brand explicitly states it markets at the 25-year-old.

₩25,000 (US$23) for 150ml, flagship: Sinsa-dong 545-19, Gangnam-gu, Seoul; +82 2 540 8092;

Great for use in the White award detox mask

One of the best-selling products at duty-free stores, this wash-off face mask uses naturally fermented ingredients including the acai berry for deep cleansing, brightening and soothing. Think Bliss Triple Oxygen mask, but with a more calming effect.

Convenient to use in the shower, after cleansing. Cover your entire face with a thick layer, leave on for five to seven minutes, then rinse off.

₩50,000 (US$46) for 100ml; available at most department stores and duty free stores;

Why can’t women’s face masks also have ear hangers?Hera Homme Cell brightening dual essential mask

Korea has the largest mens cosmetics market in the world, and most Korean cosmetic brands have an accompanying mens line.

Beauty editor Cho recommends the Hera Homme Cell brightening dual essential mask for men looking to lighten dull, damaged skin. Contains caffeine, horse chestnut seed extract and Nicotinamide — a water-soluble vitamin.

₩35,000 (US$32) for five sheets; available at most department stores and duty free stores;

Intensive overnight moisturizing.Laneige Water Sleeping Pack_EX

This best-selling intensive moisturizing mask took top honors at the Cosmo Asian Beauty Awards in 2011 and also received the Allure Korea Best of Beauty Award the same year. We know weary interns at hospitals who swear by this — it’s the only thing that keeps them looking human, they say.

₩25,000 (US$23), available at Aritaum stores, department stores and duty free stores nationwide;

Scented body oil, minus the greasiness.illi total aging care body oil

Hair and face products made with traditional Korean medicine ingredients have become massively popular in recent years, and now the trend is extending to body lines as well.

illi is the latest cosmetic brand launched by Amorepacific Group. It features 20 body products across five lines that use ingredients like ginseng, fermented beans, camellia and green tea extract.

Cho particularly recommends using the body oil on the thighs and stomach.

“There’s no stickiness whatsoever, and I’ve noticed a definite change in my skin texture after I started using it,” she says. “When I heard it was a traditional Korean medicine product I thought it would smell like ginseng, but was pleasantly surprised at the subtle floral scent.”

₩20,000 for 150ml (US$18); available at all Emart stores nationwide;

Seoulista lips.Hera Rouge Holic in Seoulista

This creamy lipstick goes on divinely and stays on for hours, reminding you why lipstick should make a return over lip gloss — there’s none of that goopy residue that spills out awkwardly over lip lines. The summery Camellia Orange color goes particularly well with darker skin. But the Seoulista — with its slightly tangerine hue — is the perfect gift from Seoul.

₩32,000 (US$29); available at most department stores and duty free stores;

Korea’s top cosmetic invention.Amorepacific Treatment Color Control Cushion SPF 50+/PA+++

It started with the phenom that is BB cream — a light mix of sunscreen, moisturizer and foundation that was meant to be a quick facial fix.

Then Hera debuted the “mist cushion” — a moist compact that was an even quicker fix than BB cream.

Amorepacific’s new color control cushion — abbreviated to “CC cushion” — is the latest, most evolved version that’s probably the highlight of all Korean cosmetics combined. Counting bamboo sap and green tea treatment complex as its main ingredients, “it keeps your skin moist while giving you full coverage,” raves Cho.

₩65,000 (US$59); available at most department stores and duty free stores;

Marie Antoinette meets Barbie.Etude House heart blusher

The Forever21 of Korean makeup, Etude House is geared toward the girliest of girls — and Japanese tourists.

Each store is decorated to look like Barbie’s dream closet and everything in it is tiny, pink and heart-shaped.

The lip products here tend to be quite goopy, but the blushes have a great range. They’re  so affordable you can buy all the colors you’ve always wanted to experiment with — like bright orange or light purple.

The heart blusher — think Guerlain Meteorites but instead of “pearls” you get candy-like hearts. Most adult women won’t think much of the baby pink plastic casing, but teens and tweens will love it. Matching cute pink brushes sold separately.

₩25,000 (US$23); Etude House has stores on every other street in Korea, but the most in the Myeong-dong shopping district;

Sliding powders.VIDI VICI Small Face Case in All That Face

VIDI VICI is Korea’s most well-known makeup artist Lee Kyung-min’s cosmetic line. She designed this small face case herself after seeing her clients’ makeup needs, and it’s pretty much the coolest single makeup kit ever created.

The round metal case has four sliding layers of face powder, highlighter, cheek blush and shading blush with SPF 15 respectively and is another favorite of beauty editors. The blush is light and natural while the highlighter gives skin a subtle glow.

₩105,000 (US$95); Cheongdam-dong 129-11 Gangnam-gu; +82 3473 1519;

Breeze for spring.VIDI VICI Illumi Styler in 02 Breeze

Although they’re not as hefty as the small face cases, the VIDI VICI eyeshadows also come in convenient sliding cases with mirrors. The bright white and pink top layer of the 02 Breeze Illumi Styler, new for spring, is great to use as base shadows. The darker colors tend to crumble easily, so use sparingly.

₩58,000 (US$53); Cheongdam-dong 129-11 Gangnam-gu; +82 3473 1519;

Perfect for popping into purses.O HUI eyeliner in Triple Brown

Three little pots of creamy colors make up O HUI’s latest eye kit. Rather than three eyeliners, it’s actually two cream shadows (colors: golden pink and light brown) and one deep brown eyeliner. It also comes with a mirror and mini-brush — perfect for travel.

Here’s to hoping they’ll add a eyeshadow applier to the next version.

₩40,000 (US$36.50), available at most department stores and duty free stores;

korean cosmetics

Must-have for fans of Korean dramas.Laneige Silk Intense Lipstick in Beige Chiffon

Good luck finding a Laneige store that isn’t sold out of the Beige Chiffon or the Pink Garden (also recommended). After actress Song Hye-kyo applied the lipstick in a scene in the hottest Korean drama of the moment — “That Winter, the Wind Blows” — women across the country rushed Laneige stores. Which also makes this a perfect gift for Korean Wave fans.

₩25,000 (US$23), Aritaum stores, department stores and duty free stores nationwide;

Party eyeliners for a night out in a new city.CLIO Gelpresso waterproof pencil liner – Bloody series/ travel kit

This would make a fun gift for the “Twilight” fan in your life.

Vampire obsession aside, Clio’s new Bloody Series red eyeliners aren’t the colors you’d ever think to wear, but actually look great, especially for women with lighter shades of brown hair.

No, they don’t make your eyes look bloodshot. The “red” translates into more of a brown on the skin. The Gelpresso mini-series is also great to bring along on your travels, especially if you plan on going out at night.

Our fave: the golden khaki liner.

Gelpresso eyeliner: ₩12,000 (US$11) each; Gelpresso mini series travel kit: ₩15,000 (US$13.50);

Creamy on one end, liquid on the other.The Face Shop Face It Concealer Dual Veil

This double-ended concealer took first place in a blind test on the popular television show “Get it Beauty,” and subsequently became a best-seller for The Face Shop.

A creamy cover stick shaped like a lipstick on one end and in liquid form on the other end, the dual concealer covers dark circles and blemishes seamlessly.

Available in three shades of beige.

₩10,900 (US$10); available at the 1,000-plus The Face Shop stores nationwide;

Vibrating coverage.IPKN Professional Auto Foundation Set

This battery-powered vibrating foundation sponge applier allows you to put your foundation on without getting any on your fingers — the vibration gives you a smoother, consistent application. Although we’re not huge fans of the actual liquid foundation, which comes in a separate compact with a highlighter, the applier itself is a must-have. Once you start using it, you can never go back to manual application.

₩70,000 (US$63), available at Olive Young stores and Watsons stores nationwide;

Etude House A-Z Mask Packs 에뛰드하우스 내 피부를 부탁해 알파벳 마스크

Etude House A-Z Mask Packs 에뛰드하우스 내 피부를 부탁해 알파벳 마스크

Sorry for this frightening first photo! Have you heard of Etude House’s mask pack redesign? They have now turned their mask packs into an alphabet – each letter corresponds to the ingredients in the pack. For Example: A – is … Continue reading