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Convenience Stores

Explore the 24/7 stores that satisfy needs and more while biking in Korea.

Convenience stores act as life support for many Koreans. On every city block, their doors welcome cold and hungry refugees every hour, day or night.

Got problems? They’ve got solutions.

A picture of a CU convenience store in South Korea.
Korean convenience stores offer a wide range of food options 24/7.

Thirsty? Grab some water (or a tallboy). Dying phone? Grab a portable battery or charger. Long fingernails? Grab a pair of nail clippers in the toiletries section.

Check out our treasure map to nutritional wonders found in Korea’s convenience stores.

Map!
Click to open the map. Zoom in to your location. 

Meals

A picture of ramen, lunchbox, eggs, triangle gimbap, meat on a stick, and more food from a convenience store in Korea.
Korean convenience stores hold a wealth of mealtime options.

From gig to desk jockeys, convenience stores supply the time-crunched workforce with a variety of prepackaged meals. These offerings can complete a balanced-ish breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in-between.

Here are some highlights.

Instant Ramen

Shelves full of instant ramen at a convenience store in South Korea.
You'll find an endless selection of instant ramen at convenience stores while biking in Korea.

Instant ramen claims a good chunk of physical space in most stores. Cups and packages jam aisles with endless options.

You’ll find classics like Shin Ramen. Oddities like the Cheese Paldo. Some “how’s” like jajangmyeon (black noodles). And “why’s” like jjamppong (seafood).

Want to burn off your taste buds? Find a cup of Buldalgbokk Eummyeon (불닭볶음면). Its legendary spice brought many teenagers to the soda aisles for relief.

Dining In

So you’ve chosen and paid for your cup of noodles (and sodium). Now what? Look for meter tall towers of cylindrical metal. These aren’t drink dispensers.

A picture of the seating area in a Korean convenience store.
Most convenience stores provide a stool or seating area for customers to dine in.

Peel back the corner to your cup ramen and take out the flavor packet. Now, slip the dispenser nozzle inside and let loose a torrent of steaming water. Use your chompers to tear the flavor packet. Sprinkle and mix. A few minutes later, your sub-₩3,000 lunch is ready.

Triangle Gimbap

Convenience stores stock plenty of rolls of old fashion gimbap (김밥). But don’t skip the triangle gimbap (samgak; 삼각김밥).

The palm sized snacks follow the same recipe. Rice, veggies and meat wrapped in seaweed.

Look at the top of the triangle. There’s a tab. Peel it back. The cellophane strip will follow pre-cut lines, presenting the crispy seaweed shell.

A picture of triangle gimbap from a Korean convenience store.
A triangle of gimbap offers a hearty punch of rice, veges, and sometimes meat.

Lunchboxes

A picture of a lunchbox from a Korean convenience store.
Convenience store lunchboxes hold rice, meat, and a few side dishes.

Below the gimbap and crustless sandwiches, you’ll find plastic wrapped trays. In the west, they’re called lunchboxes. In Korea, they’re known as dosirak (도시락), what wives and mothers prepare for their familial workers.

Inside a typical convenience store dosirak, you’ll find a plot of rice, a main meat dish, and various banchan (side dishes; 반찬). These side dishes might include kimchi, jeon (전), sliced egg roll, and more.

Beware! Some lunch boxes have spicy surprises.

Hotbar

Mill around the street vendors in Seoul’s Myeongdong (명동). You’ll discover what many varieties of what we would call ‘meat on a stick.’ Koreans refer to it as hot bar (핫바), as in ‘a hot bar of meat.’

Convenience stores also serve up hot bar. However, they don’t earn the ‘hot’ title like their flame-licked cousins.

A picture of meat on a stick options in a Korean convenience store.
Hot bar refers to a hot bar of meat on a stick. Pick your flavor in Korea's convenience stores.

In the open refrigerators hang vacuum sealed sticks of meat. There are many unique flavors to try. Quattro cheese. Garlic sausage. Tteokgalbi (떡갈비; spicy meat).

Boiled Eggs & More

A picture of boiled eggs from a Korean convenience store.
Grab a pair of boiled eggs to add a dash of protein to your diet.

Training for a big boxing match? Need protein? Don’t want to slurp down a glass of raw eggs. Convenience stores are on it! Try some hard-boiled eggs.

Presented as a pair in a plastic box, the eggs come in a variety of textures and flavors. The core recipe? Same. Take an egg. Boil it in water. Package it up.

And More

You thought the fun ended there? Oh, you’re wrong. Fill your gullet with some pre-packaged hamburgers. Pop it into the microwave and nuke them for a few minutes.

And want a more conventional approach? Convenience stores stock sandwiches, both familiar and unfamiliar. They have egg sandwiches. Ham and cheese. Chicken. Even strawberries and cream. Simple. Delicious. Crust-less.

Microwave Magic

Got a frigid hamburger? Chilly bowl of rice? Cold plate of mandu? Convenience stores, once again, save the day!

Most convenience stores have a microwave tucked away somewhere. In smaller stores, they might be behind the counter. Larger stores center their food reactor in a small kitchenette, available for all customers.

If you aren’t sure about how to heat your food, check the back of the packaging. You’ll see a microwave or circle with colon separated numbers (01:15). You guessed it. Minutes and second. 

Pop it in. Beep, beep, beep. Chow down!

The Junkyard

A picture of chips and sweets from a convenience store in South Korea.
Korean convenience stores offer salty and sweet snacks for between-meal cravings.

Food is culture. And every culture is unique. What isn’t different? Junk food.

Korea’s junk yard haul may surprise. It may horrify. It may inspire awe. So dig in! You’ll find something to satisfy your sweet tooth or salty tongue.

Chips & Crisps

The chips (or crisps) in Korea go a little beyond your standard potato chip. How exotic are we talking? How about shrimp flavored chips? Chips sprinkled with crushed peanuts? Interested in squid and peanuts? (Not actually squid.) 

If you want to play it safe, you can try the sweet and salty honey butter or honey apple chips.

Shelves full of potato chips at a convenience store in South Korea.
On Korea's potato chips shelves, you'll find many interesting flavors and old classics.

O! Karto serves up french fry chips. That’s right! Potato chips in french fry form.

Pringles offers their typical bites, with some exotic additions. Want to try cola flavored? How about butter caramel?

And, if you’re a big fan of Bugles corn chips, Kko Kkal Corn (꼬깔콘) is Korea’s version.

Choco Pies & Peperos

A picture of cookies, pasty snacks, and pepperos.
Sweet tooth? Try this cookies, moon pies, and chocolate coated sticks.

Sweetness abounds in Korea. So don’t worry if you’ve got urges.

Choco Pies (초코파이) are moonpies’ Korean cousin. However, Korea stuffs them not only with marshmallows. You’ll find cream stuffed. Green tea stuffed. Banana stuffed.

Peperos (빼빼로) boast by far the best marketing team of any sweet treat. Come to Korea on November 11th (a.k.a. Pepero Day) and you’ll find sweethearts exchanging boxes of these chocolate covered cookie sticks. Why November 11th? 11-11. Four pepero sticks in a row.

Digets (다이제) are popular semi-sweet digestives in Korea. Chocolate coats one side. The other side goes bare. They go great with a hot cup of coffee.

Pastries & Bread

Like fresh bread? Tucked into the ends of aisles, you’ll often find a tiny bakery. You’ll find plastic packaged cream-filled delights, like chocolate topped doughnuts and frosted cookies.

A common sight is a sweet roll filled with red bean paste. Red bean? For parts of east Asian, red bean is their chocolate, a bitter plant infused with a ton of sugar.

Korean’s also love their roll cakes. They bring these cream wrapped sponge cakes to get-togethers and work celebrations.

A picture of sweet bread options in a Korean convenience store.
Tucked at the ends of aisles or near checkout, find a tiny little bakery stuffed with sweet and hearty bread options.

Beware, the bread selection isn’t straight from the oven. But they aren’t week-old doorstops. The stock rotates out every evening, in every morning.

Quick Breakfast

Korea developed from hunger to Mercedes in record time. However, breakfast options lag. Most mornings, Koreans dine on a bowl of home cooked rice. Waffles and flapjacks are desert options at cafes.

If you want a quick carb load to start your day, visit a convenience store the night before. Grab an armful of pastries, a couple cartons of milk, and maybe a can of coffee. Bring them back to your motel, throw them in the mini-fridge. When you wake,  stuff your face.

It’s not the healthiest option. But it’ll get you on the road fast.

Candy! Candy

A picture of bags of candy in a Korean convenience store.
Korean convenience stores sell old and new sweets. Pick your favorite or try something new.

Remember being a kid? No. Well, swing by the candy aisle. You’ll find many new and old treasures to dig up long forgotten memories. 

Search for a purple bag with animated worms. Written atop, find 왕꿈틀이. Translation: Big Gummy Worms. You guessed it. They’re Korea’s version of the good ol’ gummy worm.

Lotte is one of Korea’s mega corps. Besides their theme parks and apartment buildings, they also make sweet treats. Bars of milk and dark chocolate Ghana decorate every sugary aisle on the peninsula.

The Spanish confectionery Chupa Chups is another candy fixture. Their lollipops grabbed Korean children’s imagination. You’ll find trees with lollipop limbs on many checkout counters.

Crown Confectionery is a homegrown candy maker. Their most popular offering is 마이쮸 (Ma-ie-jju). Like Starburst, the taffy candy comes in grape, strawberry, and apple flavors.

Convenience Explosion

There are over 40,000 convenience stores in Korea. More open every day.

Find a nook, a closet, a spacious hole in the wall. Blink and a ‘New Store Coming Soon’ sign will appear.

Here are the ubiquitous chains.

*Click on the Korean name. They link to Kakao Maps. Just zoom into your location to find restaurants near you.

Beverage Bar

Beverage refrigerators in a convenience store in South Korea.
You'll find everything from caffeine, to electrolytes, to alcohol in convenience store fridges.

Thirsty! Convenience stores stock their coolers with everything from Coke to strawberry milk. You can find something hydrating. Something to keep you up. And something to liven up the night.

Coffee, Tea & Herbs

A picture of a can of coffee from a Korean convenience store.
You'll find coffee of all flavors and sweetnesses on the canned coffee shelves.

Coffee, the forbidden drink. Besides Starbucks and the thousands of coffee shops in Korea, you can also find rows and rows of canned coffee in convenience stores.

From cold brew to mocha to latte, Barista Rules serves up a variety of flavors. Some are sugary. Some are super sugary.

Vita 500 Gold (비타500골드) is a popular vitamin C drink. The 500 shows the amount of vitamin C in this sucker: 500% your daily dose.

If you’ve hit the soju a little too hard last night, try a bottle of 헛개차 (heot gae-cha; hovenia dulis tea). Though the flavor is bitter, the tea is a famous hangover cure in Japan, China, and Korea.

Pouch Drinks

Summer here? Sun hot? Convenience stores giveth.

Find a freezer full of cups of ice in the drink aisle. Grab one. This is part one.

Nearby, you’ll spot a box filled with plastic pouches. They’re labeled lemonade, latté, grapefruit, and more. The sweet nectar inside is part two.

Pay first. Then, put the parts together. Rip the top off the pouch and pour it into your cup of’ ice. Voilà!

A picture of a pouch drink and cup of ice from a Korean convenience store.
A pouch of sweet juice or coffee and cup might be the fastest way to cool down on a hot summer day.

Wasteful? You bet. Colder than the refrigerated drinks? Marginally.

Milk & Yogurt

Shelves of milk and coffee options in a convenience store in South Korea.
The milk and coffee shelves hold a smorgasbord of options and flavors.

Got milk? Need milk? Which flavor?

Convenience store options will overwhelm you. Banana milk. Strawberry Milk. Coffee milk. Red bean milk. They also have exotic flavors called chocolate milk and milk milk (it’s milk).

Yogurt (요구르트) is beloved among kids from six to sixty. Everywhere you’ll find palm sized, foil topped bottles carrying sour yogurt shots.

Adult Beverages

For good or bad, alcohol’s fame burns bright in Korea. The trifecta of spirits includes beer (맥주; maekju), soju (소주), and makgeolli (막걸리).

Beer

In the early 20th century, western nations introduced beer to Korea. In less than a century, it burrowed deep into the culture. It’s a staple for any night out, company dinner, or picnic in the park.

A refrigerator stocked with alcoholic beverages in a convenience store in South Korea.
Find all three of Korea's favorite alcoholic delights in Korea's convenience stores: beer, soju, and makgeolli.

The most popular beer is a domestic tallboy (500 ml) lager. But, with relaxed import laws, you’ll find more German, Japanese, and American brands at your local convenience store.

Cass (OB) and Hite dominate the domestic beer market. Notorious for their “lighter taste,” price and national pride help push tankers of their brew into thirsty stomachs.

Soju

If beer is the foreign prince, then soju is the homegrown king. This humble rice liquor anointed Korea “one of the most hard liquor consuming countries on earth.”

Korea birthed soju in the 13th century after Mongols introduced distilling techniques. The old-school process involved distilling alcohol from fermented grains, like rice. This gave a 30-35% ABV rice liquor.

Today, companies tamed down the alcohol content. The rice spirit hovers around 15-18% ABV. 

Many foreigners underestimate the power of soju. They think, “it’s only 17%. That’s like a strong wine.” Be nice. Leave a pillow in the storm drain. That’s where they’ll regain consciousness.

Most Koreans drink soju from shot glasses for a reason.

Makgeolli

Makgeolli holds a special place in the alcohol pantheon. The cloudy rice wine is the oldest alcohol beverage in Korea.

In convenience stores, they come in opaque 750 ml bottles near the soju. Somewhat sour, somewhat sweet, makgeolli‘s ABV hovers somewhere between 6-9%.

You can also find makgeolli restaurants that serve a chilled, fresh brew in an open pot. Use a ladle to fill your cup and chow down on buchimgae (부침개), a fried, savory pancake.

Somaek (소맥)

Do you enjoy a fine portmanteau? Korea has lots. Handphone (핸드폰), or smartphone. Officetel (오피스텔), or office hotel.

Try this one. Soju (소주) + Maekju (맥주; beer) = Somaek (소맥).

Pour a little soju in a glass. Fill the rest with Cass. What do you get? Somaek, the favored Korean cocktail.

Some might think the flavor brings about the second coming. Some might say that it’s really the anti-taste. You can’t deny this … it’s Korean. Uniquely.