January 15, 2014

DIY Around the World: South Korea

I don't really share too much about my offline life on TIMI, but currently I'm in my last semester of graduate school to polish off my master's degree in international education.  I always want to learn about how different countries and cultures approach the same general idea, and have decided to channel that interest into a post about DIY in other parts of the world.

So, today we have Allison, an American living and teaching English in South Korea. She's also the rhinestone-loving author behind the blog Lusting for Lavish. Read on to hear about her experiences DIYing in Korea, her hunt for the perfect glue, and her take on Korean style.

Where do you live in Korea? What is your city like? 
I live in Bupyeong, Incheon, South Korea, which is just outside of Seoul. My area is pretty urban, I walk everywhere, and there are three subway stations within a fifteen-minute walk of my apartment.

Where do you shop for craft supplies in Korea? 
When I first arrived in Korea about a year ago, I had no idea where to get craft supplies. A co-worker showed me a nearby art store. Art stores in Korea are much different than in the States. They have everything, children’s toys, car accessories, paints, posters, pens, papers etc. They are more like an office supply store than a craft store. In Korea, a craft store looks like a hodgepodge school supply mess. You pretty much dig for things. Sometimes you find what you’re looking for, sometimes you don’t, the stock is constantly changing. In one trip I bought, neon pink PVC, acrylic paint, scotch tape, file folders, and some cleaning supplies. 

Allison's local art store

I couldn't find many of the DIY supplies I wanted in the local shops, so I did a quick Internet search and found an area called Dongdaemun in Seoul. Dongdaemun is a shopping district that has supplies for fashion, jewelry, and shoe designers. The first time I went, I got rather lost. Dongdaemun Shopping Complex is multiple warehouse-sized building with several floors.

Picking out trim in Dongdaemun

Any favorite shops or stores?
I have found some favorite vendors for my DIY supplies. I always buy rhinestones for the same people. I also buy chain from whom I like to call ‘the chain ladies.’ A few women sit behind piles of different chain, ready and waiting to cut the chain to whatever length you like. There is a language barrier since my Korean is very limited, but that has never stopped me from getting the supplies I need. 

The chain ladies

It takes me about one hour by subway to get to Dongdaemun. I can only get there on weekends, I go about once a month. I always make sure to have a list of supplies I need for future projects. Without a list I would end up spending way too much money, I’m a bit of an impulse buyer when it comes to DIY supplies.

Are there challenges about DIYing in Korea?
Before I discovered Dongdaemun, I had difficulty finding the supplies I needed. I spent about a month testing different types of glue since I couldn’t find E-6000 anywhere. Now my biggest challenge is planning out my projects and writing out a list of supplies I need to buy. I’ve never been much of a planner, I’m more of a dive-in-and-start-creating type of person. Learning to plan everything out ahead of time has been a little rough, but a growing experience for me.

  Rhinestones for miles

Is there a DIY culture in Korea? 
Do-it-yourself and crafting is not very popular in Korea. There are underground shopping areas everywhere that sell cheap knock offs of everything imaginable. I made really simple friendship bracelets for my Korean co-workers and they were completely beside themselves. They didn’t believe me when I told them I made the bracelets.

Where do you find inspiration for what you make? Do you find inspiration living in Korea?
I find inspiration from everywhere really. I like to take in every little detail of the world around me. I like to see when people are wearing. K-style is much different than American style. Koreans will mix some crazy patterns! Young Koreans are very fashion forward, they take great care in the way they look. I am also addicted to Pinterest. I’ve had an account for about three years! I follow tons if designers, bloggers, and magazines. I am constantly searching Pinterest for DIY-able fashion.

Thanks so much, Allison! You can check out her blog, Lusting for Lavish, for more beautiful DIYs and adventures in food and travel, follow on Facebook, or keep up with her life in Korea on Instagram.


  1. Anonymous9:07 AM

    I love it <3

  2. Very interesting! I've never thought about other places not having traditional craft stores like we do in the US.


  3. This is the heaven of DIY!

  4. I'm going to scream!!! what a store!!! Thats amazing!! :D

  5. So interesting! Thanks!

  6. Very cool to read about this! I've never been to South Korea but it looks like a treasure trove:-) If you're ever interested in a feature on DIY'ing in Japan, let me know...I spend a month of every year in Tokyo and I wrote a feature for CutOutandKeep on the amazing craft stores there!

  7. I love dongdaemun! whenever I go there I end up spending so much money and time. there are several hundred stores selling beads, and another several hundred stores selling chains, fabrics....and more. I'm Korean so I mostly shop online (most of things are cheaper), but I still often goto dongdaemun for inspirations.


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