Published:Mar 12, 2024

Digital democracy|Digital divide

Mobile shopping spending increased 3x in South Korea

Since 2017, South Korea's online shopping expenditure has surged more than twice, despite a slight shrink in the economy amid the pandemic,¹ and reached a total of more than 692 trillion won ($519 billion). This week’s chart explores the details behind the growth over the last seven years and looks at the categories in South Korea most impacted by online shopping.

Key insights

  • The growth in online shopping in South Korea can mainly be attributed to a more than threefold increase in mobile shopping spending, amounting to more than 457 trillion won ($343 billion) and constituting two-thirds of the overall online shopping expenditure.
  • The highest expenditures were allocated to food-related transactions. The online food and beverage shopping category reached 130 trillion won ($97 billion), and food services 114 trillion won ($85.7 billion), securing the 1st and 3rd positions in overall online shopping spending since 2017, respectively. Mobile shopping claimed a substantial presence in both sectors, with 73% and 96% of online purchases for food and beverages and food services, respectively, conducted through mobile devices.
  • The home electric appliances, electronic, and telecommunication equipment category secured the 2nd position in overall online shopping spending, accumulating 115 trillion won ($86 billion) since 2017. Clothing and cosmetics were the other two big categories in online shopping, with 111 trillion won ($84 billion) and 79 trillion won ($59 billion) spent since 2017, respectively.
  • In 2023, the most significant growth among all categories was seen in expenditures on travel arrangements and transportation services, reaching a total of 24 trillion won ($18 billion). This figure represents an increase of 44% compared to 2022. Following a decline in online spending on travel during 2020 and 2021, 2023 marks the second consecutive year of recovery in the sector since the pandemic.
  • Following closely, online spending on e-coupon services, including gift certificates² and discount coupons³, grew by a third in 2023, totaling 10 trillion won ($7 billion). Culture and leisure activities were another category that grew substantially in 2023, with 3 trillion won ($2 billion) spent.

Methodology and sources

Online shopping survey data (2017 - 2023) was collected from the Korean Statistical Information Service database. Data was aggregated per online shopping type and shopping category and analyzed in terms of the amount spent and change over the years.

For the complete research material behind this study, visit here.

Data was collected from:

Korean Statistical Information Service (2024). Retail, Wholesale and Services: Online Shopping Survey 2020-2023.


¹ Jung Min-kyung (2021). The Korea Herald. Korea’s economy shrinks 1% in 2020.² The Korea Biz Wire (2023). Explosive Growth in Online E-Coupon Services as Non-Face-to-Face Gifting Culture Takes Root Post-Pandemic. ³ Korea JoongAng Daily (2024). Shoppers turn to e-coupons as prices rise.
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