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What can you not gift in Korea?


In Korea, gift-giving is an integral part of the culture. However, before you start buying gifts for your Korean friends or business associates, it’s important to note that there are certain items that are not acceptable as gifts in Korea. This article will explore what you can’t gift in Korea and the reasons behind these taboos.


While giving money as a gift may seem like a practical choice, it’s considered rude and inappropriate in Korean culture. It’s believed that giving money implies a lack of effort and thoughtfulness on the part of the giver. Instead, consider giving a thoughtful and meaningful gift that shows your appreciation and respect.

Clocks and Watches

In Korea, clocks and watches symbolize limited time and are associated with funerals. Therefore, gifting these items is considered taboo as they represent a negative omen.

Sharp Objects

Sharp objects such as knives, scissors, or letter openers are not considered appropriate gifts in Korea. They are perceived as being associated with cutting ties or severing relationships.


Handkerchiefs are another taboo gift item in Korea as they are associated with mourning and sadness.


Shoes are considered an intimate item in Korean culture. Gifting shoes implies that you want the recipient to walk away from your life, which is why they are not an acceptable gift.


While umbrellas may seem like a practical gift, they are associated with separation and breaking up relationships in Korean culture. Giving an umbrella as a gift may imply that you want to end the relationship.

White Flowers

White flowers symbolize death in Korea and are only used during funerals. Gifting white flowers to someone is considered a negative omen and should be avoided.

Red Ink

In Korea, red ink is associated with negative energy and is considered taboo. Therefore, gifting pens or other items with red ink should be avoided.

Used Items

Gifting used items is considered rude in Korean culture. It implies that the giver is trying to get rid of something they no longer need or want.


While alcohol is a popular gift item in Korea, it should be given with caution. Gifting alcohol to someone who doesn’t drink or has a history of alcoholism can be perceived as rude and insensitive.


In conclusion, gifting in Korea requires careful consideration of cultural norms and taboos. Avoiding the taboo items mentioned above will show respect and thoughtfulness towards your recipient. Remember, when it comes to gift-giving in Korea, it’s the thought that counts.

What not to give as a gift in Korea?

When giving gifts to Koreans, it is important to avoid expensive presents as they may feel obligated to reciprocate with an equally expensive gift. Knives or scissors should also be avoided as they symbolize the ending of a relationship. Green headwear, gifts with red writing, and gifts in sets of four should also be avoided as they have negative connotations related to death.

What can you not bring to Korea?

This list of illegal items includes drugs like opium, marijuana/cannabis, cocaine, and others, as well as items made from animals like elephants, leopards, and alligators, such as medicines, handbags, wallets, stoles, taxidermy, and ivory. It also includes forms of payment like cashier’s checks, overdraft checks, and postal money orders.

What is gift etiquette in South Korea?

It is important to avoid using red ink or green, white, and black wrapping paper when signing a card or giving a gift in Korean culture. If you are invited to a Korean home, it is customary to bring fruit, high-quality chocolates, or flowers as a gift which should be presented with both hands. Gifts are not typically opened upon receipt and are usually opened later.

What do Koreans like to receive as gifts?

In Korea, health supplements, teas, vitamins, and red ginseng make great gifts, especially for in-laws. High-end food products like Hanwoo beef, expensive mushrooms, and wild ginseng are also good options for gifts.

What is a list of things banned from South Korea?

Korea does not allow the import of guns, drugs, porn, materials that undermine the government, treasonous materials, or fake products. To learn more about the specific items that are restricted from being exported to Korea, click on the export controls link for detailed information. This information was last updated on August 2, 2022.

Can I bring ibuprofen to Korea?

Advil is not illegal and does not need to be declared when traveling. Only narcotic drugs such as opium, heroin, cocaine, MDMA, hemp and Philopon, as well as certain medications like Viagra, Cialis, and diet pills, need to be declared. Advil does not fall under any of those categories.

It’s also important to note that the wrapping and presentation of the gift is just as important as the gift itself in Korean culture. In Korea, the wrapping paper should be colorful and vibrant, and should never be white or black as these colors are associated with mourning. It’s also customary to include a small note or card with the gift expressing your gratitude and appreciation.

When presenting the gift, it’s important to use both hands as a sign of respect. Avoid opening the gift in front of the giver as this may be seen as impolite. Instead, wait until you are alone to open the gift.

In Korean culture, reciprocating a gift is also important. If someone gives you a gift, it’s expected that you will give them a gift in return. This is seen as a way of maintaining balance and harmony in the relationship.

Finally, if you’re unsure about what to give as a gift in Korea, it’s always best to ask for advice from a Korean friend or business associate. They will be able to guide you on what is appropriate and what is considered taboo in Korean culture. By following these cultural norms, you can show respect and appreciation for your Korean friends and business associates through the art of gift-giving.

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