While board games and CCGs have a lot of popularity in Korea, miniature wargames seem quite the niche hobby here. A while back during holiday at home I scooped up some of my 15mm Russians for Flames of War. I figured during the winter months I could enjoy some weekend mornings doing a bit of painting and finally get through that pile of unpainted metal I had stored away. When I really started looking around I found it exceptionally difficult getting the typical supplies I wanted for painting and modeling. So I thought I’d share some of my efforts to any expats.
As a first caveat to this, my Korean is abysmal. I am certain if I had a better command of the language the process would be easier tracking down materials. Korea is very much an online shopping country. There are likely places I’ve missed that have a larger online presence than a walk in store mainly due to my ignorance with the local language.
However miniature wargaming also just doesn’t seem that popular of a pastime. There is an immense pressure on kids to study and private academies are all the rage. Free time is limited for kids and parents want them studying more. So pastimes that leave a smaller footprint around the house are likely more popular. It’s far easier for kids to carry around a CCG or sneak off to a PC bang (internet cafe for gaming) rather than lug around a painting bench and throw down a wargame table. It does seem for the folks that wargame, it’s much more popular for college students than for kids in high school.
Stationery and Art Supply Stores – Odd enough, stationery stores may very well carry some modeling and painting supplies. Give them a look and you might pleasantly be surprised. Foamcore board can typically be found as well as colored felt cloth. I’ve snagged packs for Woodland Scenics flock, plastic sheets from Plastruct, balsa wood, and other modeling material too. So you can pick up a few things to help in construction of terrain for your games from these places.
As painting supplies go, you can find a fair amount of brushes and can even get down to 10O sizes for model painting. I’ve even been able to snag some Apple Barrel craft paints. While I don’t use them for mini painting, they make great paints for terrain. So hobby and craft supplies can be picked up at these stationery stores. It just takes a bit of digging.
Neighbor Hobby – This is a fantastic place if military models are your thing as there is a great selection of kits. Unfortunately for fans of Bolt Action, they carry only Tamiya 1/48 models, but they seem to have a full selection from that line. As 1/72 and 1/76 scale kits go though, they have a great selection of tanks, soldiers, and terrain. They also have several 1/72 scale buildings too.
What does this place for me though is the paint selection. There is a wide selection of paints from Testors, Tamiya, AK Interactive, MIG, as well as my go to for miniature painting, Vallejo. It’s a wonderful selection for both brush and airbrush painters. They also carry a complete selection of Testors and Tamiya sprays. They also have brushes and other modelling supplies. Well worth checking out and they do online orders as well.
To get there isn’t too difficult. Take subway line 2 to Hongik University and get off exit number 3. You need to cross the street and footpath park, and then take a side street. Once it ends, then go right and you will hit a main street. From there go left and it will be in an office building on your left.
Orc Town – Likely the most popular wargame store in Seoul, Orc Town is one that is Games Workshop-centric. They also dabble in other game systems like Infinity, Flames of War, Bolt Action, Firestorm Armada, and Dust. What is particularly nice about this store is they carry Citadel paints and supplies, especially matte spray and primer (for typical costs). My biggest complaint is that for some products the prices are horrendously expensive and well above retail (seems to include shipping costs). Because of that, I’ve had a hard time justifying purchasing particular model and rulebooks here compared to buying from an international distributor. Still, having a shop where you can walk in and buy some paints is nice. Having one where you can get a bit of table space for gaming is even nicer.
Tamiya Models – On the first floor of the shopping center at the Yongsan train station is an official Tamiya Model store. For a military wargamer this is a fair place to pick up paints and hobby supplies. They have full stocks of enamel and water-based acrylic paint sets. They also have brushes, cement, and other modeling supplies (plastic styrene sheets and other model building material). I find the prices reasonable for Tamiya model kits and for plastic cement and other modeling tools (which can be a bear to find anywhere locally) it’s a great place to shop.
As the gaming figures go, if you are a Bolt Action fan they have a decent selection of 1/48 scale armor and vehicles along with some figure sets. 1/72 scale options are lacking save for planes and 1/35 is the other popular scale for military models. Additionally scenic materials are also lacking. But if you want to track down a particular 1/48 vehicle or historically accurate paints, the Tamiya store is not a bad choice.
International distributors – Lastly you can always order online and pony up for international shipping. I have had spray paints sent overseas and worked with many stores over the years. It can be done, but expect some costs for shipping. I’ve always gone the route of making a large ($150-250) order to offset the shipping costs. Getting a few paints is exceedingly expensive. It’s best to wrap more goodies into that shipping charge. Because of this, you want to look around for stores that sell other types of games. While you might save a few dollars from one online store selling just paints, using another that lets you also include board games and RPG books into your order is a better choice.
There is a very small wargaming community in Korea but we exist. Hope those into the hobby can find some of this useful for picking up models and supplies for their bench top.