Whether in your home country or Korea, your period does not care a whit where you are. Trying to find familiar female sanitary products in a new country was a very daunting task. When I first came to Korea, I had four packages of 40-count Always pads because I didn't know if I could find what I needed. Then I found, in a CU of all places, P&G Korea's Whisper brand pads. The Korean equivalent of Always. They became my go-to from then on.
But then in the fall of 2017, a news report came out, reporting that some of the most widely available brands of sanitary pads in Korea had tested positive for carcinogenic chemicals. This shocked the nation and everyone who used these products. And so, like the dust in the wind, I lost my favorite brand of feminine products. Whisper was no more, and my search started once again.
Hopefully, this overview of products and some terms will make your search easier!
This is the number one product used for periods here in Korea. They have the widest variety of brands and shapes available. They are also the most accessible, available in supermarkets, convenience stores, and bulk stores like Costco and eTraders. So then, what should you buy? What do the labels say? Most brands will have easy to understand packaging so that even with a rudimentary understanding of Korean, you can get an idea of what you want. The shape and length of the pad will be printed on either the front or the package's back.
Some standard labels on pads include:
무표백 = unbleached, which means that your pad will not be stark white.
유기농 = organic and is talking about the cotton used in the pads.
오버나이트 = overnight, and they average out to be 33 cm in length.
맥시슬림 = maxi slim but do not be fooled as it is quite cushiony.
울트라슬림 = ultra-slim and is the thinnest pad.
팬티형 = the pad is in the form of panties.
Tampons are available in Korea and can be found in supermarkets and well-stocked convenience stores. However, compared to the variety of pads available, the tampon corner will be lacking. Tampons in Korea still come in different sizes such as regular (레귤러), and super (슈퍼). You can find regular and super the easiest. For light (라이트) or super plus (슈퍼 플러스) tampons, you will have to look for an exported brand at Homeplus of Costco. I've never been able to find a local brand for those sizes at my neighborhood eMart. Hopefully, you have an easier time searching!
If you are still having a hard time, please don't hesitate to ask an employee with the help of the vocabulary provided!
If you're looking for alternatives to sanitary pads and tampons, please continue reading! While not as popular, there are a few different methods that are commonly used and bought. Please make sure that you know how to shop online as most of these products can only be found on the Internet.
The concept of menstrual cups is still very new in Korea but slowly growing in popularity. Korean brands and overseas brands can be found online, and there are reviews of Korean brands on Youtube available. If you've been to the larger Jaju stores, not attached to eMarts, you can find DivaCups and some Korean brands. They have a display case so that you can touch and see their size in person! They'll say 소 (small), 중 (medium), or 대 (large) and say how many milliliters it can hold. I popped into the Dangsan Station Jaju store and found them there. Please let us know below if a Jaju store close to you also has it in store!
I've never used these personally, but I do have friends around me who do! They like these because they're soft, and they can just toss them in the laundry and wash them. They are sold in sets, and some include detergent, laundry soap, and a carrying case. While at first, the price can be daunting, my friend says that by saving all of the money she spent on pads before, she was able to buy a new camera. Like regular pads, they are divided into 소형 (small), 중형 (medium), and 대형 (large). My friend says that certain brands will have overnight pads and panty liners as well!
If you use period panties and are looking for new ones or a Korean alternative, there are two brands, KHUF and Cyclean available in Korea, that are good! Divided into different sizes and styles, they are easy to use and seen as more eco-friendly. I've included the two brands I've personally tried because if you search for 생리팬티, a plethora of different styles of regular underwear will pop up.