A throwback to the 11th day of April in 1992, a South Korean band named Seo Taiji and Boys performed their song Nan Arayo (“I know”) in a talent show in their home country. Even with the purpose of introducing a new music trend called hip hop, still, the song was not well received by the judges. They got the lowest score and lost in the competition.
Little did they know that the song will achieve a record breaking feat of staying on top on the local charts for 17 weeks right after it debuted! Not just that, it also stood for more than 15 years as the longest Number 1 streak in South Korea’s music history. True enough, that momentous night in 1992 gave birth to what we know now as KPOP.
That event paved the way to a series of generations of KPOP artists. As the music industry evolved to connect to a wider range of audience, KPOP gained massive support and following from different parts of the world. Through global social networks like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter, the Korean wave, or also known as Hallyu, spread faster and wider than ever!
Global Demand for KPOP Merchandise
More than the music and the message that KPOP provides, fans wanted to keep something for themselves, physically. So the demand for KPOP merchandise grew each year. There are merchandises that are only unique in the KPOP industry like lightsticks, seasonal packages that mainly include photobooks, limited photocards and season’s greetings. Though recently, foreign artists tried to release the same kind of merch, but nevertheless, KPOP fans will know the difference.
KPOP started to become recognized on a global scale during the second era. This is where boy and girl groups like TVXQ, 2PM, BIGBANG, SUPER JUNIOR, WONDER GIRLS, 2NE1, Girls Generation, and T-ARA dominated the KPOP industry. Social media just began connecting international fans to the world of KPOP, but it was not as organized yet as it is now. Buying merchandise like albums, lightsticks, and photobooks were difficult to do as there was a need for worldwide shipping. The number of steps to follow and the amount of fees to pay seem a little over-the-top for fans, even the “capable” ones.
But during the third era where groups like BTS, GOT7, BLACKPINK, and TWICE dominated the KPOP industry, everything seemed to ease a little bit. The “digital age” made it easier for everyone. Songs and whole albums can now be bought digitally, even through your mobile phones. Online KPOP stores multiplied dramatically in just a span of few years. And shipping companies developed new and cheaper ways to deliver items all over the world.
With this, the KPOP merchandise industry expanded to a wider reach. To prove this point, according to Hyundai Research Institute, BTS contributed 3.6 billion dollars to South Korea’s GDP in 2018 alone, and $4.5 billion in 2019. Their biggest brand merchandise from South Korea like BT21 and Samsung boosted their international appeal.
Korean Online Shopping Sites
To supply the needs of this growing demand for KPOP merchandise, the number of KPOP online stores also increased. But nowadays, it is difficult to find one that you can really trust with your hard-earned money. That is why, here is a list of “trustworthy” KPOP online shops to help you decide where to buy your precious merchandise:
KPOPTOWN is considered as one of the online stores with a wide selection of KPOP merchandise. There are both official and unofficial goods. And the overall site navigation is user friendly. A newbie fan wouldn’t have a hard time purchasing here. The prices are affordable too, especially when you buy in bulk. That is why it is highly recommended for GOMs.
GOMs or group order managers are people (usually a fan also) who take the initiative to organize the orders for a large group of fans. This way, they’ll be able to save money through buying in bulk. And the best part is that albums bought in KPOPTOWN count in both Hanteo and Gaon charts.
STARSHOP GOODS (smartstore.naver.com/starshopgoods)
Starshop goods can be navigated through the Naver’s website. The interesting part is that the KPOP merchandise are under “smartstore.” It is Naver’s initiative for small business owners and even content creators to promote and sell their products. They are provided with free startup assistance.
That is why the KPOP products that are mostly sold in this store are personalized with KPOP idols’ images. You can buy a variety of accessories and useful items here like pillows, stationary items, mugs, stickers, keychains, and calendars. And they cover almost all active KPOP groups that you can see on the left hand menu.
A lot of KPOP fans say that COKODIVE is one of their favorite KPOP online store. Why? First of all, they are based in South Korea and the most important thing to note is, they ship items internationally for FREE! The store have a huge collection of items, both official and unofficial. Even hard-to-find KPOP goods like brand collaborations and books. There’s additional fashion and beauty items too. Ranging from different KPOP groups to solo artists, they have it!
BONUS: KTOWN4U (ktown4u.com)
Ktown4u is almost similar to Kpoptown. This store has a reasonable price offer and have a wide range of Korean products: foods, clothing, beauty products, and of course, KPOP goods. A lot of fans also buy here, especially during pre-order seasons of albums. They have products that are not usually seen on other KPOP stores like magazine features. If you need comparison for price of items and shipping, this can be your “other” go-to KPOP store.
K-Pop Online Stores For Specific K-Pop Groups
Big Korean entertainment companies took it to their own hands to sell their own artists’ merchandise in an exclusive mobile app or website. This way, it is easier for fans to navigate ALL official merchandise produced by the company.
WEVERSE SHOP (mobile app)
Weverse is a mobile app that serves as a platform for KPOP artists under the labels of BigHit Entertainment, which handles the biggest KPOP boy group in the world, BTS. It has its own shop called Weverse Shop, which has an easy-to-navigate layout to find merchandise separated into categories. The artists under them are BTS, TOMORROW X TOGETHER, GFRIEND, SEVENTEEN, NU’EST, ENHYPEN, Weeekly, P1Harmony, CL, HENRY (Lau), CherryBullet, and Sunmi. If you’re a fan of one of them, just check out Weverse Shop and you’ll find all their official goods.
YG SELECT (ygselect.com)
Obviously, YG Select official store covers all YG artists like BigBang, SechKies, WINNER, iKon, BLACKPINK, AKMU, TREASURE, and more. It has an organized layout where artists have their own pages, so fans would easily find their favorite groups. As their companies’ name is on it, you can guarantee that you won’t be scammed.
Why It is Important To Buy KPOP Products Directly From Korea
Buying KPOP merchandise during the second era was quite complicated. For Korean-made products to reach fans all over world, there is a long list of steps of purchasing and shipping just to deliver an item. So to solve this problem, Korean entertainment companies tried to release local versions of KPOP albums. For example, if you’re living in the USA, you can purchase a “US version” of that particular album. It means that the album is produced and released in that country. Hence, the album will be cheaper and could be bought from the local stores. This strategy is not fully supported, though, because KPOP fans still preferred albums bought directly from South Korea.
Another reason why KPOP fans would buy products directly from Korea is because Korean versions of the albums are counted to Gaon or Hanteo. They determine the standing of a KPOP group in the charts, Hanteo mostly for the weekly sales used in music shows and Gaon for the annual sales used in year-end award shows. So to be sure, buy only from reliable and tested KPOP online shopping sites like the ones listed above to have a good purchasing experience.
There are now one-stop shops for all your KPOP purchasing needs and offers personal shoppers at the same time. One of them is DELIVERED KOREA. Most of the shopping sites listed above are all covered in their consolidating and worldwide shipping services. Some of them are also only available in Korean language and they can help with that too.
Collecting KPOP merchandise as an international fan may seem daunting. But don’t worry because the digital space is creating more ways to make everything easier. You just have to make use of the shopping convenience that they offer.