Buying a laptop, camera, or any electronics in Seoul

I’m the first to admit that I’m not a big shopper; if I do shop I’ve got a purpose and that is usually to buy a laptop, some component or camera part at Yongsan Electronics Mall.  Whether you’re looking for a component, piece of hardware or a whole new machine Yongsan is the place to go.  It has a few big advantages over online shopping, mainly that you can physically try out what your buying, price compare with different vendors and haggle!

Getting to Yongsan Electrnoics Mall is easy, hop on the subway and head to Yongsan station on line 1 or Sinyongsan station on line 4.  I’ve been dozens of times and bought things from $5 to $500.  Camera lenses, tripods, headphones, SD cards, computer parts and of course laptops.  Just recently I bought a notebook to travel with so I can leave my bulkier laptop home.

So lets get down to what you’re probably here for.  Advice & prices! (Scroll down for some useful Korean phrases too)

Good news!  The best internet prices (www.Amazon.com) are attainable at Yongsan.  Usually they’ll quote a price 10-20% higher than what you’ve seen online and haggle down.  I just bought an Asus notebook for ₩360,000 (see below) and in 2013 an HP laptop for ₩460,000 ($450 at last years rate).  The HP was my first time going to Yongsan and I spoke precisely zero Korean so I brought a Korean friend with me.  The vendor offered the equivalent (in KRW) to what I found on Amazon as long as I paid cash.

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As far as cameras go I’ve had great luck haggling for lenses, filters, tripods and SD cards.  The first floor when you walk in is jam packed with camera vendors.  Most of them have the same products and will let you try out the lens if you bring your camera.  Just like with the laptops I found their initial prices to be slightly inflated on internet price but willing to haggle roughly 10-20% depending on the vendor and the level of your Korean.


 3 tips for the best price at Yongsan Electronics Mall

1) Research your item ahead of time.  Go into the conversation knowing how much its worth and what you’re willing to pay for it.  Ask questions using the right terminology and they’ll know you aren’t messing around but most importantly bring a smartphone with the website & price you found!  Don’t forget to price check within the market itself!  Talk to multiple vendors and don’t be afraid to WALK AWAY.  The best prices I’ve gotten are in the middle of the market.  Near the doors vendors have the highest starting offers. Doing research and knowing the items has been my biggest tool for haggling and saved me hundreds!


2) Take your time thinking and firmly state a price halfway between what you want to pay and their offer.  The vendor WANTS to make the sale.  He can’t go below a certain price but if he realizes you’re serious about buying something today he’ll do everything he can to make sure he’s the one that sells it to you and not his neighbor.  They’ll invite you to sit down, have a cup of coffee and try out the item.  That’s when you know he’s serious.  If you sit down he knows you’re serious too.  Our conversation went like this:

“How much?” I asked
“₩400,000” he replied typing the number into a calculator.

It was a good price but just above internet market value and no way I was paying it.  I looked at the laptop, typed a little and stalled looking at the ports.

“비싸요 (Peessayo)” I quietly told him it was too expensive.
“How much?”

He immediately asked me what I wanted to spend and handed me the calculator to type it in.  I stalled some more  I said ₩300,000 ($270) in Korean and typed it in.  He took his time and responded with ₩360,000 ($322).  Bam! 10% discount.  Now for some extras.

“4gb ram?”  (typically a $20-$40 upgrade since it only comes with 2gb)
“Okay.”
“Microsoft Office?”
“Yes.”
“Photoshop?”
“Yes.”
“₩360,000 ($322)?” I double checked the price now that these new items were added.
“Okay.”

I still wasn’t sure I wanted to spend that kind of money since I was hoping to stay under $300.  Then again the prices I found for under $300 were all refurbished models and this one was brand new.  I did a quick search on phone and found the same model for the ($330 US equivalent) and a $250 refurbished one.  I waited another moment before agreeing and heading to an ATM with him (there are a handful on both sides of the market).  By the end he even threw in a neoprene case and optical mouse for free too!


3)If you don’t speak a little Korean bring a Korean with you.  If they see a lone foreigner who knows no Korean they’ll high ball the first offer.  More importantly though you won’t know exactly what you’re getting and be able to ask for extras (like how I got Photoshop CS7 & Microsoft Office thrown in for free on my notebook).  Knowing Korean numbers seems to be the best way actually haggle even if you don’t know other words but remember these phrases & to wait for him to respond.

Korean Phrases to know for shopping & haggling!

_____ 있어요? (ee soy yo) = Do you have _____.
(ie: Samsung Laptop ee soy yo? Nikon lens 50mm 있어요?)

이거  얼마예요? (eego ole-mah-yeh-yo?) = (while pointing to an item) how much is this?

비싸요 (Peessayo) = that’s expensive

깎아 주세요 (Kakka ju-se-yo) = please give me a discount

원(won) = won (₩) Click for current KRW to USD rates

일 (il) = 1

이 (ee) = 2

삼 (sam) = 3

사 (sa) = 4

오 (oh) = 5

육 (yuke) = 6

칠 (chil) = 7

팔 (pal) = 8

구 (gu) = 9

십 (shib) = 10

백 (baek) = 100

천 (chun) = 1,000

만 (maan) = 10,000

십만 (shib maan) = 100,000

백만 baek maan) = 1,000,000

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