Goodbye Family Mart: Convenience Store Culture in South Korea

There’s a nighttime venue in Seoul that’s always a hotspot, with thousands of venues across this vast city. 

Photo by Michael Johnstone

It’s not a club, pub, or bar. It’s your local Family Mart–or 7-11, On the Go, or any other major convenience store in Korea. Convenience stores have a special place in Korea, for expats and locals alike.

On weeknights, or even weekends, it’s often too much of a hassle to head to popular drinking districts, such as Itaewon, Hongdae, Jongno or Hyehwa.  Or maybe you feel it’s just too expensive to pay $4.00US for a beer. This is where the glory of the Korean convenience store shines.

Choose any direction and walk, and chances are you’ll find a convenience store within minutes. Often, within seconds. And during the summer, the tables, umbrellas and deck chairs come out, transforming virtually all convenience stores into impromptu watering holes.

And why not? With cheap beer, soju, and other delights, coupled with an infinite supply of snacks, Korea’s convenience stores are the economical way to get smashed and meet people (don’t be surprised if locals invite themselves to your table to practice their English and shower you with snack food and booze).

It’s big news, then to learn that Family Mart, one of the most beloved chains in the ROK is changing it’s name to CU. Family Mart is Japanese run, and franchised throughout Asia–even spreading out to 250 stores in Los Angeles, California.  Japanese shareholders in conjunction with Korea’s Bogwang group have decided to change the name of franchised stores to CU starting in August.

Source: the changes are likely to only improve on Family Mart’s success and give a fresh face to the convenience store chain, the phrase, “Let’s go get smashed at the Family Mart” will soon leave the expatriate’s vocabulary forever. Rest in peace,  Family Mart…we had some good times together.

4 Responses to “Goodbye Family Mart: Convenience Store Culture in South Korea”
  1. Ashley says:

    I just visited Japan and Korea and saw Family Mart EVERYWHERE! I was surprised at the decent things you can buy there. So what does the CU stand for?

  2. travisdallen says:

    I just returned from Sri Lanka and was surprised to see the shange. alas, it’ll always be the Family Mart to me.

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