Korean Culture Says Buy These Gifts – Seoulistic

Buying gifts in any part of the world is always hard. Luckily, you don’t have to think too much when you’re in Korea. Korean culture will tell you what presents to buy for Korean weddings, house warmings, birthdays, and traditional Korean holidays. These traditional Korean gifts will impress your friends and family, and also show that you have a good knowledge of Korean culture.

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Gifts for Korean Weddings (결혼식)

Just like most countries in Asia, when you go to a wedding in Korea, cash is the expected gift. Many people know this, but figuring out the exact amount to give can be a bit trickier. Traditionally, people do not give cash in even numbers at weddings. Cash gifts for Korean newly weds typically come in odd numbers (30,000, 50,000, 70,000 won) as odd numbers represent good luck. Though, the whole odd/even thing doesn’t matter so much once you reach a nice round number of 100,000 won.

How much should  you give? Well, that really depends. The amount of money you give should be representative of your friendship or relationship. If it’s someone you met only a few times or you’re a poor student, 30,000 won is about the minimum. Closer friends usually give between 100,000 to 300,000 won.

Tip 1: Common protocol is to stuff the cash in an envelope and write your name on top. There will either be a collection box, or someone to collect these envelopes and take note of your name. Don’t be surprised if someone asks how much is inside.
Tip 2: If you’re close enough, ask if they’d like something other than cash. Contemporary Koreans don’t put too much stock into these numbers and they also tend to love espresso machines.


Korean House Warming Gifts (집들이)

If all your pals have gotten married, you’ll soon be invited to a Korean house warming party. Housewarmings in Korea, called jibdeuli (집들이), are fun gatherings with friends, family, food and of course, gifts. The traditional gifts to bring to housewarmings in Korea are rolls of toilet paper and laundry detergent. When Korea was a poorer country, toilet paper and detergent were pricy items that not every household could afford. In addition to that, the bubbles produced by the detergent and the length of the sheets of toilet paper represented prosperity. If your friends are slightly more modern, don’t discount a nice bottle of wine.

Tip: So your friends don’t end up with a 7 year supply of toilet paper, you can also bring facial tissues or paper towel. A common variation for laundry detergent is dishwasher soap.


First Birthday Party – Doljanchi (돌잔치)

You’ve been to your friend’s wedding and her housewarming, now it’s her baby’s first birthday party, called doljanchi (돌잔치). During harder times, survivng the first year was something worth celebrating, and the tradition continues today. Although these days, parents won’t mind if you bring clothes or toys for their child, the traditional gifts for a baby’s first birthday party in Korea are tiny gold rings for the baby’s fingers. If you aren’t sure exactly what rings to buy, cash is always appreciated.


Seollal and Chuseok (설날 & 추석)

These traditional Korean holidays are mostly family exclusive, but if you’re visiting relatives in Korea or you’re lucky enough to be invited to one of these traditional Korean holidays, you don’t want to arrive empty handed. During the holiday season, you can walk into any supermarket, big or small, and find gift sets already packaged and ready to go. There you’ll find lots of spam, tuna and shampoos. While these might seem weird to you, they are totally expected and accepted gifts for Koreans.

Seollal (설날) is the lunar new year and everyone wants to start the new year with a bit of luck. After the ancestral rites, many of people drink alcohol to bring in the good luck (called 음복술/eumboksul). Although it’s not necessarily a traditional gift, your Korean hosts would appreciate some traditional Korean alcohol (go for anything but soju or makkeolli). And these days, many Koreans would appreciate a nice bottle of whiskey too!

Chuseok (추석) is the celebration of the harvest, so the traditional Korean gift to give is good food. Fruit is a common gift, but go for the nice boxed sets of Korean pears or apples and not the budget bin at your local E-Mart. If you want to get them beef, Korean hanu (한우) beef is a common gift.


Language Tip:
축의금 (chukuigeum) – congratulatory money (cash gifts, typically for weddings).
금반지 (geumbanji) – gold ring (금/geum = gold) (반지/banji = ring)


Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


  1. Shannon says:

    LOL Korean people are pretty straightforward when it comes to gifts. You can give money! You don’t really need to spend a lot of time thinking about the gift. Sometimes is really hard to find the right one.
    I really didn’t know about those facts. But this post was really useful, I’ve wanted to know what kind of situations you should give gifts in the Korean culture.

  2. Keith says:

    Yea, money is a really easy gift to give!
    I wonder what happened to all the gold rings I got as a baby… hmm! I’m gonna call my mom tonight, lol.

  3. Boram says:

    Tracitionally, when we give them 축의금 over one hundred thousand won, 축의금 should be given in the unit of hundred thousand won.(eg. W100,000, W200,000, etc.)

  4. Keith says:

    Thanks for letting us know in detail boram!! 😀

  5. Rachel says:

    I heard that you’re supposed to bring gifts when invited to someone’s house (no special holiday or anything). Is this true? And what is recommended in this case?

  6. miss B says:

    What should I give as a present to my friend’s parents we are welcoming in their family for the summer? I come from Canada. Thank you and your website is very helpful and fun!

  7. Ivy says:

    I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about a year now. His sister is getting married in November. How much of a gift should I give? Is $50 too little? I’ve only met her 4 or 5 times.. she’s not very nice but she is his sister…

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    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

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  12. Healy says:

    Does anyone know what to give an aunt who is already well off and has a lot of stuff for her 80th birthday? What is the traditional gift?

  13. Shibby says:

    There are some other etiquette tips to keep in mind when gift-giving.

    1. Scarcity is king. If you know something is hard to get for them, get them that. It may not be useful or even something they need, but buying something from your local area that they can’t get normally will earn you some big points.
    2. If there’s a child or older family member (like a grandmother), buying them a gift in lieu of getting one for the people you’re actually coming to see is okay. Good for people who might be on a budget and can’t get a gift for everyone or just don’t have an idea of what to get for their friend.
    3. For men (particularly if they’re a little older), I have one word for you – alcohol. A nice bottle of soju or whiskey will almost always go over well with the man of the house. If money is tight, try not to go for a cheap brand. A small bottle of the good stuff is better than a case of the cheap stuff.
    4. Brand name tends to trump the actual gift itself.

    Obviously, these aren’t always applicable to every situation (use common sense), but they’ve generally served me well.

  14. Elena says:

    I have a question regarding gifts. Where I live, when purchasing an item (expect when it’s food or beverages), you can always ask for gift option. In this case, the cashier will remove the price tag, put a special sticker with barcode on the item and in some shops will pack nicely. It’s a very common and normal thing to give something like this. For example, you can give the person an expensive shirt or some kitchenware and he might choose to use it, or take it back to the shop and chose something different. And everyone is very happy in either of the case.
    Also, gift wishlists are fairly common too – you don’t have to get something specific from the list, but at least it’s a good inspiration 🙂

  15. Elena says:

    The question was: is there anything like an option for returning gift item to the shop?

    (sorry for double post, forgot to include the question itself…)

  16. Keith says:

    Personally, I’ve never seen the gift receipts.. I’m not so sure they exist in Korea!

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  18. Lainey says:

    I’m going to Korea for the first time from the states and visiting relatives. What should I bring? I read vitamins, coffee, nuts, anything else?? Thanks in advance!

  19. Nazh says:

    It’s really nice to have this blog up. I’m learning quite a bit here on Koreans’ culture. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  20. Andreea Czentye says:

    This is really nice! It’s good to have a standard for this… they actually help you. 🙂

    It’s amazing how similar things are between countries from different continents. Romania has the same customs for the baby’s party and for the weddings.

    Great article! 🙂

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  22. Okpun says:

    It seems like there’s a lot if unanswered questions here. Did I miss where you answer them?

  23. Sam says:

    I want to give a gift to my Korean language teacher a gift at the end of the semester. She’s really sweet and funny, and I wanted to show respect although we’re probably around the same age. What would you consider a good gift idea for a teacher?
    THANKS in advance.

  24. mabel says:

    I am non- korean, my Korean friends are getting married but I am not able to make it for the wedding. I would like to send some gifts from overseas, what wedding gifts would be appropriate?
    Please advise, thank you!

  25. Jeanny says:

    But what to give Korean toddlers for their birthdays?

  26. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?
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  27. av says:

    Do Koreans give a gift for their son when they complete their military service? I know about the tofu when you come out of jail. I wonder if there’s anything small like when they get out of the military.

  28. Jenny D says:

    What do they do with the tiny gold rings for the baby’s first birthday? Just save them? I hope they don’t just sell them…

  29. Lynn Beumer says:

    Where are the answers? I am being invited for a meal by Korean family. What is a good gift to being. ( USA)

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