문방구 (moonbangoo or “stationary store” in English, and similar to dagashiya 駄菓子屋 in Japan) are extremely interesting treasure troves of  “junk” for kids in Korea.  These shops still exist today, mainly deep within small pocket neighborhoods nearby lower schools~ we have a few in the backstreets of my area that I just love visiting because you get to see all sorts of fun things and it feels very nostalgic for me.
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Do you remember the quarter toys inside those plastic eggs, or maybe that toy aisle inside the grocery store filled with crap you wanted for reasons you could not explain?  Yes, these old school 문방구 here in Korea really take me back to those days of jacks, cap guns, and silly putty when just $1 could make me happy for a solid afternoon!
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These places were and still are always small little random old shops next to schools, you will not find the GOOD ones on the main streets~ so some exploring is required! These shops are mainly around for kids to buy class supplies for school, but the little aged shops still around also sell piles of cheap candy, toys, stickers, games, etc any kind of kid-tastic crap you can think of.
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Kids come here often during the precious free time they have after school before they head over to the hagwon to study some more, spending any extra money they happen to have. Walk by one of these shops after the school bell rings and you will find little crowds of kids buying all sorts of junk they do not need or just hanging around~ ah the good old days.
Nara remembers as a kid they would grab some spare coins and always head over to the small shop to play a video game for just 100won back in the day~ These shops had lots of little games just outside the doorway in TINY little booths with cheap plastic stools for the small players to squat down and use.  The photo above is a very nostalgic scene for lots of Koreans that grew up here in the 1980′s-1990′s.
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Since kids flocked around the area, most grab machines and capsule toy machines back in the day were also located outside these tiny shops crammed full with goodies.  These sorts of things are harder to spot nowadays though, which is kind of a pity because playing a cheap game is always fun even if the game is old.

I use the term “Old-school” for these sorts of 문방구  in this article because the name itself is generally just for any stationary shop here (which we have LOTS of) Those shops are always very cute and fun, but to get the REALLY interesting gritty ones filled with the best crap-tastic cuteness you have to dig around those back roads because they are essentially old holes in the wall!
doll dresses, sucker guns, kites, bubble blasters, jump rope, and more…
Sometimes they sell larger toys as well, kind of like a local mini toy store ♥
Hanboks for your Barbie, Licca, or Mimi doll~ whatever fashion doll you prefer hehe

In time for the summer, this 문방구 had water guns, character fans, battery powered fans, and instant ice packs!

These photos were taken with my mobile phone, but I have several shops like this in my area so I will be returning for more photos very soon!  Please look forward to a part II plus some fun items and games I purchased from these places :D  Did you love junk toys as a kid?  Do you live in Korea and have any old-school 문방구  by your home? I love moonbangoo so much!! ^^

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21 Responses to “Old-school vintage Korean toys and treasures at the 문방구”

  • Custom avatar Itzel:

    I love these kind of stores~ I’m a huge kawaii junk collector myself :)

  • Brings back memories for sure! I loved junk toys as a kid as well. I wonder what it is about them that makes them so appealing (sometimes even more appealing than the really expensive ones!) I’d love to visit a place like that someday.. n.n

  • Custom avatar Caz:

    ha these are amazing!!! I love shops like this! mmmeeemmmoorrriiieeessss!

  • Oh I would buy so much >___<;

  • Custom avatar MinMin:

    Haha, I remember shops like that~ Kings of my childhood. ^~^ Going to little junk stores like that is so much fun. I remember getting toys and racing home as fast as I could to put it to use. *.* I still go to them with friends sometimes.<3 I loved this blog post! ^~^

  • Custom avatar the _poop:

    Wow!
    I would spend all sorts of money here. It’s all so cute and fun!!

  • I’m pretty sure I NEED those Barbie hanbok~ lol~~
    And my sister was really disappointed that I didn’t bring her home some Shugo Chara merchandise last time, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for that (though I know they have that even at department stores like E-Mart and HomePlus~)…and of course Pororo~~ my Junior High students loved Pororo~~ so I was really sad when I found some Pororo earmuffs but they didn’t fit me~! TT^TT haha

    • Elle:

      I know, right?? I wanted to buy the Barbie hanbok JUST BECAUSE~ it was only like 3,000 won and looks really nice! Bummer about your pororo earmuffs though! :( maybe you can DIY a larger pair?

  • Custom avatar Chani:

    Oh I love all this crap, just the colorful packaging is already sp tempting! We have a few of those stationery items on markets here in France too (same design) and I’m never able to resist even though I REALLY don’t need any pens anymore, and the quality is crap. Do I spot those toxic plastic bubbles from a tube in the last pic? This is really so old school!

    • Elle:

      YES! They still sell them here at all of the shops!! I kinda want one for old times sake, but I never could blow the bubbles right hahaha! Wow, I bet you have some adorable goodies in France though!

  • Custom avatar Juls:

    Treasures can never be old. Antiques are more priceless with age. Love this.

  • Custom avatar Yoon Seo:

    this is by far my most favorite post from you along w/ the daiso ones! I’m a Korean who lives in Europe, and I go to Korea every year and w/ my cousin, I would always go to moonbangoo ( were we would face the mean grandpa that we’ve known for many years :( ) and buy most of the Apollo (or nowadays, Dalnara) in stock! :D Some days, we would take the nearest bus and ride off to the nearest Daiso to buy stickers, candy and random junk :3 Im going to Korea again this year in December, so I keep staring at the Korean goodness on your blog whenever I can so I can pick the just right things when I get there >:D

    • Elle:

      aw I am so glad!!! 문방구 are really so amazing, I need to visit another and take even more photos, I have just been so busy with all the cafe posts and stuff argh! They really are one of my favorites here hahaha yeah though, they are always owned by such crabby men XD lol I guess it is just one of those things, huh? I am going to go out one day and do an old-school crappy cheap Korean candy haul from these shops to show them all and give them a taste! Nara has not bought some of the things in over 20 years so it should be an amusing post, I hope you will enjoy it XD

      Ack I am so due for a new daiso post, I have two by my house and I am always buying stuff. They have a lot of cute stuff now for baking and lunchbox art!

  • Custom avatar Phyllis:

    It’s just so amazing! ^^ But I never did get to experience that, because maybe it was due to my city being too ‘modern..’ … Ahh! Being back home straight after school… I really want to try those one day! >.<

  • Custom avatar Abby:

    I looooved vending games as a kid. And I live in a small town in Korea so we have tons of these stores — but more of the “gritty” kind you refer to. Actually, most of the “decorations” on our E-mart Christmas tree are from the plastic bubble vending machines or those new ones where you poke a gift and it falls. Jared is really good at them.

  • Custom avatar bernal:

    Where is this munbangu located? I want to take a look!

  • Custom avatar Nikki:

    Hi! Where is this located? :D

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