Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

How-To Korea: How to send mail from a Korea Post Office to the U.S.

I’d avoided it for weeks. For months. I’d been amassing a collection of Korean goodies for my friends and family since I arrived in August. But I just couldn’t make the final leap, the last and most crucial (and painful) step: tackling the Korean Post Office.

I hate post offices. They’re sterile. They beat the DMV for long, slow-moving lines. The employees are generally, to put it kindly, less than helpful. And I can never, ever, get a straight answer about what kind of shipping to use. These issues arise when I try to send mail in the country where I speak the language. I’ve been having nightmares about the Korean post office for weeks.

As Christmas rolled around, I knew I had to bite the bullet. It couldn’t be avoided any longer. Packed and labeled Christmas packages had been sitting in my apartment for weeks, taunting me.

But I had no reason to fear the Korean postal service. It rocks! It was the least painful post office run I’ve ever made (aside from the $150 I dropped on shipping). We just jumped in a cab and asked for the nearest post office.

Tip #1: For anyone looking for a post office in Korea, they’re relatively easy to find. Just ask for the woo che guk, the Korean word for post office. Or, look for their red sign with a bird on it.

Immediately after opening the post office doors, we were greeted by an English-speaking employee who not only showed us which shipping containers to use, but helped us to set up, pack and label them with lightning speed and efficiency. I’ve already written about the outta-this-world customer service in Korea, but it continues to leave me in shock and awe.

Tip #2: Wait to pack your box until you get to the post office. For one, they may not accept your box. There are limits to the types and size of boxes. The second reason is you may end up paying more for an oddly sized box. Third reason? They will help you pack and tape up the box at the post office.

Tip #3: You have to fill out a customs form before sending packages overseas. It doesn’t take that long, but allow for a few extra minutes, especially if you are sending multiple packages.

Tip #4: Post offices in Korea are generally open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, although during the winter months (November to February) they may only be open until 5 p.m. Also, most post offices are closed on the weekends, although some forum posts suggest there may be a few open on Saturday.

After double-checking that each of my five packages were correctly labeled, we lugged our haul to the counter, where they quickly weighed and tallied it. The downside of sending mail from Korea to the US: even the more expensive option, shipping by air, takes two weeks to a month to arrive. Shipping by boat (what the post office calls “surface”) is considerably cheaper, but takes two to three months to reach it’s destination. Still, the shipping experience itself was about as pleasant as could be.

So, a big apology to all of my friends and family, whose Christmas presents are still hurtling across the world to land on your doorsteps (in a week or two). I guess I should start sending birthday gifts now…

6 thoughts on “How-To Korea: How to send mail from a Korea Post Office to the U.S.”

  1. Rosiel says:

    I guess it is what they call snail mail, maybe because the process is as slow as a snail. Yet this is what we used before when internet and cellphones were not discovered yet. My sister also once sent us a package from the US and it did arrived after 3 months. It was cheaper though my sister said, and good thing we received the package completely.

  2. chickpeainkorea says:

    Turns out that my packages arrived in about a week and a half, all in one piece! It was much faster than I expected.

  3. Jimmyboy says:

    Not quite clear from your post so I’m curious.
    The packaging/boxes are sold at the Post Office?

    Thanks for writing this. I’m about to mail some stuff myself.

  4. Alex Pickett says:

    Hey Jimmyboy,

    Yeah, the packaging and boxes are sold at the post office. In fact, I think you have to use their boxes if you are shipping overseas. But they are only a few hundred won so its not expensive at all. Best of all, the people there will help you pack!

  5. goldahava says:

    Yes, but the Korean mail service will not for some strange reason allow post to go to PO Box addresses overseas and even small letters have to be placed in ridiculously large oversized envelopes. So whilst the customer service is indeed very good, the postal service as a whole seems a little inflexible.

  6. Emily says:

    I always hear about other foreigners in Korea having a super easy time doing random stuff and the staff was so nice etc… That unfortunately hasn’t been the case for me. Usually I end up trying to do something and it turns out nobody speaks English or is willing to help me with a translator app even (I do t get it, I’m usually trying to give people my money lol but they would rather just refuse me service and not make money). Anyways, I went to the post office with this same low expectation and was pleasantly surprised. The staff was super helpful. I pre packed my stuff in its own box and just had to write the address on it, they didn’t make me repack it or anything. Thanks for the helpful post. I had more trouble getting the the post office in a taxi… The driver at first refused me service, even though I spoke to him in Korean. Snapping a quick picture of his info took care of that though, he ended up dropping me off with a smile. Kkkkkkk

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