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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Guide to Online Shopping 2017

A lot has changed in the time that I have been here. One of the biggest changes (and a welcomed one) is the recent ease that one can order items off the internet and have them shipped right to your door. While Korea is arguably lightyears ahead of many places with regards to domestic online shopping and their amazing taek-bae delivery system, as foreigners we often suffer when trying to order items from home. In recent years, things have changed and sites like amazon and iherb have increased in popularity. This popularity can be a doubled-edge sword as it has lead to certain “crackdowns” by customs leading to limitations on certain products purchased and extra duty on others.  For the purpose of this article, we are going to take a look at how to order from overseas sites.

Get Your Address Right

The first thing that you should find is your proper address. This means your official address not what you or your co-worker think it is. For that, you must visit the Korea Post site and find your address and postal code. You can do so in English here. Then use that for your default address. The reason being is that for the most part this is what the postal system will use to find you. If you are using a hybred or waygook-filtered version of your address, it could get sent back because they could not figure out your address.

Get Your Passport Ready

One of the biggest sources of confusion is the PCC  or “Personal Customs Code” and I want to set the record straight on this. You DO NOT need to get a PCC for anything. Use your passport number and possibly your foreigner ID number. When ordering from places like Amazon, chances are they will use UPS i-Parcel or other shipping companies. If there are any issues they will send you an email stating that they need additional information. Typically that information will be your passport number. The email will include a link to their site and a spot to enter your number. Usually, that is all that is needed. If you insist on getting a PCC, iHerb has a guide here but again, this is typically for Korean nationals and as a foreigner, you will most likely not need the PCC.

For some sites, when you are registering they may ask for a specific pin. That may include a couple of letters added on to your passport. If you are from the UK for example, it may look like this:  F + UK + Passport number. For other countries, simply add your country’s abbreviation after the “F” and it should work. If you are having trouble with amazon, try using your ARC card or your passport for their 13 digit code. I have my default set to my passport and a secondary address as my ARC. I have never encountered any problems with customs so far.

Depending on the amount of the items ordered you may need to pay the duty on them. The shipping company should contact you for the needed information and provide you with the forms.

How Much Are You Allowed?

Typically you won’t get stung by duty if you keep your orders under $150. Places like iHerb will typically try and separate the packages to avoid the duty. However, this method is sometimes a hit or miss. If your packages come separate but on the same day, customs can hold them both for the combined total.

So the basic rule of thumb is to keep your packages under the $150 limit and you should be fine. Otherwise, expect a call or email from customs or your delivery agent.

What Happens When I Get a Call or Email?

Typically you will get an email from the delivery company or from iParcel stating that you need to provide “additional information” and they will typically be your passport number. For my shipments from amazon, I received the email pictured above and then I just clicked the link and entered my passport number in the field provided and that was it.

Recently, I had to pay taxes on a shipment of goods from Australia. Thankfully, DHL who was shipping the goods had English service and helped me with the forms. If you have to pay import taxes on items that you’ve purchased, ask for the forms and then print them out. Take them to your bank and they will take care of everything for you.

If you have any issues or think that your items are stuck in customs, them check the info on the customs site and email them directly.

This was for a large order from Australia. Was close to $450 or so. I printed the form and took it to my local bank. They transferred the money and the order was sent

What Happens When They Deliver it and I’m Not There?

Korean delivery guys are the best. They will look for a place to put your package so that it is safe and then text you the location (usually in Korean). Try to use a translation app like Papago if you are not sure what they said or how to respond. If you live in an apartment block with a security guard, they will typically leave it with them. However, some will leave it in a safe location around your door. When I lived in a one-room, they would leave my packages in the storage spot under the stairs.

If you are working for a public school or in an office, many people have their packages delivered to there. If you don’t have a security guard, then you should use your school or office address and they will drop the package off there for you. If this sounds odd, don’t worry. When I worked at a middle school, 90 % of the time my colleagues were shopping online during work hours and the office was more than happy to accept packages.

 


Here are a few of the major sites that have have been recommended as being reliable sites to get those much-needed items from home.

Amazon

Amazon is growing in popularity and thus it is getting a little easier. Typically, I use my Korean credit card and address for my shopping. One of the things that I like is that Amazon will let you know whether or not they will/can ship to Korea. Once you get your account set up, you can set up the filters to show only the items eligible for shipping to Korea. The greatly helps to ease frustration when searching for items only to find that they won’t ship there.

Amazon also helps calculate the amount of import fees associated with the product. Keep an eye on this as some items that you want will have a higher import and tax amount than the price of the item. Like most online shopping sites, amazon has a great app that will also help you track your package.

If you are looking for items that can’t be shipping to Korea, then they try reboxing services like this. You ship your goods to them and they rebox and then ship them to you. It sounds like a hassle but there are many items, especially food items, that amazon won’t deliver to Korea.

What It’s Good For:

Clothes in western styles and sizes, body care products like deodorant, accessories that are overpriced in Korea, games, and toys for children, books.

iHerb

A number of years ago my co-workers kept asking about this mysterious site. I had never heard of it but it quickly became my favorite along with pretty much everyone else in Korea. So much so that customs started to limit the amounts of vitamins one could import into Korea. You also started seeing their products everywhere at inflated prices too. However, this popularity also had some benefits mostly super-fast delivery and an understanding of the Korean customs and postal system. This means that they have an idea of what you are allowed to bring in and will usually break the order up if it is over the $150 to manage the customs and import fees.

IHerb is great for not only healthcare products but many grocery and personal care items as well. While they typically don’t carry brand name items, their products are quality and can get you through. They are great for spices and food items that are really hard to find here. Not to mention that they are all organic in someway, so if you are looking for stuff like that then look no further.  Not to mention that their shipping is extremely fast and cheap.

What It’s Good For:

Food, vitamins, personal care products, baby products, spices, health items.

 

ASOS

If you are looking for plus sized fashion or clothes in Western sizes or styles, ASOS seems to pop up quite a bit. While the styles may not be for everyone, they are certainly popular here where the average fashion may not suit you or your shape. ASOS is a British clothing store with styles for younger people and seems similar in style to H&M.

This is another site that due to the popularity in Korea, they will help decrease the duty charges by separating the orders (from what I’ve heard). The general rule of thumb is to keep your individual orders to under the $150 limit.

What It’s Good For:

Clothing, Western styles, plus-sized items.

 

AliExpress

This is basically amazon’s Chinese competitor and has pretty much everything. It works a little different than amazon in the sense that you are buying from individual stores rather than aliexpress directly. However, they typically have great deals on some unique items. The one thing that I have noticed is that some sellers will have restrictions on the amounts that you can purchase.  Basically, they want you to buy in bulk. So read the descriptions carefully before you end up buying 90 green super Mario t-shirts instead of the one you were buying as a joke.

What It’s Good For:

Pretty much anything and everything, cheap clothes, hard to find items, bulk stuff.


Other Good Sites:

I will try and add some notable sites here from the facebook group discussion. These may be places that people have ordered from and/or recommend.

British Corner Shop – If you are missing British treats then this is your place.

Box Oregon – I mentioned this place above. You can have your amazon shipments sent to them and they will rebox it for you and they also have a few costco items for sale as well.

Ebay – You will have to ask the sellers if they will ship to Korea but many have purchased items from ebay with success. Ebay also owns Gmarket, which is one of Korea’s largest online markets.

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