South Korea is a country known for its tech and low rates of theft. Together, this has led to some pretty amazing advancements when it comes to unmanned shops. First, it was unmanned ice cream and convenience stores, now unmanned shops selling full meal kits are popping up all over Korea. What’s next?
Unmanned Shops in Korea
South Korea is an evolving society where convenience and speed are considered cultural values. Since the pandemic, unmanned and self-service shops have been gaining momentum. This phenomenon is rapidly expanding throughout the country, which has developed a “me and my safety first” mentality ever since the virus hit the country 3 years ago.
Initially, it started small with a few convenience stores selling low-value items such as ice cream and chips in big metropolitan areas. The very first stores were of course in tourist areas like Seoul Tower and Lotte Tower.
For many in the world, unmanned shops seem like a distant utopian dream. But, here in Korea theft rates are extremely low. While many abroad may contribute this to culture, those living here say differently. Korea had problems with theft in the past. However, the government installed began installing CCTVs 1990s. The CCTV system in South Korea is now one of the most advanced in the world. So, if you do steal, chances are the CCTVs will catch you.
All in all, thanks to the security of CCTV cameras, the loyalty of people, and AI that can manage stores remotely, entrepreneurs are jumping into the unmanned shop bandwagon in South Korea.
My Local Unmanned Meal Kit Shop
Now, let’s explore one of these unmanned meal kit shops together! This shop is located in Gochon-dong, Gimpo. Specifically, this building is filled with unmanned stores where you can constantly see people streaming in and out constantly. There are stationery shops, even laundromats, and so much more.
However, upon entering the meal kit store, you will see dozens of shelves. Each is stocked with different dried foods such as seaweed (김) and boxed meals that can be stored at room temperature. I do have to put it out there, the layout is very unique, yet modern and simple. It almost feels luxurious with the chic lighting and shelving system. It reminded me of an upscale accessories boutique.
Ready-Made Meal Kits
Then, you will find aisles of refrigerators displaying beautifully all sorts of food, from Western items such as pizzas and pasta to Korean food like Tteokbokki, Mandu, and hotteok. All of these meals just need to be reheated and they are ready to enjoy, all at a very affordable price. Everything was between 2,000 and 15,000 won!
Once you have picked out your meal kits, can go to the self-service check. You just need to scan your items and pay. (bags are an additional 100won)
The checkout area has different methods of payment. They accept Naver pay, Gimpo pay*, QR code, and credit/debit card.
**Gimpo pay is a card/QR code system that allows residents (foreigners and nationals alike) to get 10% cash back for their purchases. It is offered by the city government. If you live in Gimpo, you should definitely look into it!
The store was filled with small little notes. On each of the notes, there were recommended recipes, best seller information, etc… so cute. In most of the unmanned stores in Korea, I have seen similar notes posted.
Next to the self-checkout counter, this specific shop has a small stand with free extra ramen noodles for those who bought certain meal kits. Plus, they also had a microwave to prepare food for those who are too hungry to wait until they get home to eat. Not all shops will have this, but it is worth checking on.
Future of Unmanned Shops in Korea
Convenient, fast, and efficient – unmanned shops are popping up in all sorts of new and exciting ways. I’ve seen study cafes, snack shops, and souvenir shops. The list is increasing by the day!
What do you think about this kind of store? Do you prefer unmanned shops or do you enjoy a bit of human interaction? Leave your opinions down Bellow!
Want to read more about unattended stores in Korea? Click Here to read about 24-hour contactless ice cream shops in Daejeon.