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January 30th, 2004

Modern Korea can be quite artificial as we see modern 4 line highways, nested in between multi storey elevated highways against the backdrop of small tight roads, reminiscent of former times.  Over the last 100 years, the country has been overtaken by brutal occupation from the Chinese, then the Japanese, finally to be liberated by the UN and US forces in 1953.  As the country struggles through to find its place in the modern world, it leaves behind a history full of tradition unfortunately, is not witnessed by many.

We found that 4 Electronics regions exist, they are Yongsan Electronics Market, Kukje Electronics Centre, Technomart and Jongno  Electronics Town.  I found that generally, you are able to find a better bargain in Technomart and Kukje than in Yongsan.  This may be because Yongsan is famous with easy access and is frequented by tourists.  It also has over 5,000 stores spread over 22 buildings over an area twice the size of Melbourne city.  In Yongsan where tourists are a commonplace, you may not be able to spot a great bargain easily as the vendors are used to them.  Having said this, generally discounts range from 10-30% for domestic products and 40-50% for imported goods in Yongsan.

Technomart on the other hand has a more modern feel about it.  Technomart is a 10 storey building consisting of electronics market, discount store, restaurants, theater and shopping mall!

When shopping  for electronic goods, we always know that the imported merchandise, in particular Digital Cameras and Camcorders are available in 2 prices.  Tourists are normally only quoted the most expense, which may still seem cheap to the them.

The way things are sold in Korea is whether the equipment is sold with warranty or without warranty.  What this means is that "without warranty" components are grey market goods.  You may wish to refer it to as parallel import goods or the Customs calls it contraband.  Whatever they call it, the vendor does not offer any warranty for the product but its questionable if worldwide warranty is applicable for the product.  The analogy here is that as you're a tourist, you can't use the warranty where you come from anyway.

The "with warranty" product are one imported and supported by the local representative of the manufacturer.  As with all electronic purchases, they will come with full warranty from the date of purchase.  However, the cost difference may be  20-30% more.

Finally, shopping between the shopping centres takes time but can be fun and rewarding.  I recently purchased a Sony DCR-PC330 video camera, which retails in Australia for A$3,299.00 or A$3,0.00 duty free.   The RRP is Korea is 1,980,000 won.  However,  the "non-warranted" PC300 was being sold for 1,310,000.  This camera was procured from Japan, complete with Japanese menu system, documentation and accessories pack, all in Japanese.  The product also has a Bluetooth modem built in as standard.  

I finally purchased  the fully warranted Sony DCR-PC330 for 1,720,000 won (or AUD$ 1,875).   I also purchased the Sony NP-QM71D long life Super Quick Charge battery and six Sony DVM60 tapes.   The QM71D battery costs 130,000 krw and the six tapes 20,000 krw.  However, the PC330 camera came with Korean documentation even if the electronic menu on the camera can be changed to English.  An english version of all manuals was downloaded from the Sony USA Customer Support Centre site.  Through the local Sony Customer Support Website, I doubled the warranty from to 2 years.  

The list above is by no means exhaustive. as there are many thousands of stores found in Seoul, its satellite city Bundang (which is a major source of Navigation and Satellite Receiver manufacturer in Korea) and other cities within Korea.  Recently, I discovered an Audio-Visual building in Namdaemun Market and an entire electronic market block on Dondaemun Market.  Always ask the locals and they will help you discover more of Korea.

So far in Korea, I have purchased a video camera (the Sony DCR-PC330 described above), a colour printer (HP Deskjet 330), a 2.6GHz Pentium 4 home computer, a broadband wireless hub-router (the Linksys WRT54G) and an MP3 player.  I feel that you will get great value if you've done your research on what to buy, how much it costs before you commence on the bargaining. 


the SONY PC330 Handycam

Yongsan Electronics Market

Inside Technomart

Inside Kukje Electronics Centre