Korean Parents Buying $700 Backpacks for Kids

Video from MBC:

[Focus News] Korean Elementary Schoolers’ $700 Backpacks..Flying Off the Shelves


The cute kids who are just starting elementary school.

They will need a period of time to adjust to their new life.

But the prices of the backpacks that the students are wearing, and that are a necessary school supply, are not so cute.

Covering these exaggerated prices in this period of low birth rates is Reporter Kim Joon-seok.


Elementary schoolers are back at school for the new semester.

Among the backpacks that they all carry on their backs, are surprisingly expensive pieces.

The newest “randoseru” backpacks imported from Japan go for 700,000 ($700).

One store in the mall quickly sold 100 backpacks, and is ordering more.

Worker selling backpacks:

“It’s not sold out, we still have one left.”

Companies compete with each other to develop different designs and functions.

From backpacks that have the special ability to protect your kids’ spine, to backpacks that have 14k gold embedded on them, to ones that have popular TV and movie characters on them, the trend is to compete to make the most expensive backpack.

Kang Choon-hyun, Backpack store manager:

Parents care a lot about how heavy the backpack is.

As the number of single child families rise, the market for children’s backpacks targeted at parents who want to give their children the best of everything increases as well. Every year, the market rapidly increases, and this year, it is expected to increase to 300,000,000,000 won.

Parent of elementary school student

“Parents are worried that their kids will be bullied at school, so they prefer more expensive brands…”

It’s not just backpacks that are expensive.

There are pencil cases that are 280,000 won and pens that cost more than 100,000 won.

Bags for carrying shoes are 80,000 won, so buying all these for your children can cost over 1,000,000 won, which causes some parents’ feelings of discomfort to grow.

This is a workshop where parents make backpacks for their kids by hand.

Even if you use high quality cloth, it only costs 40,000 – 50,000 won, and there’s enough cloth left after making a backpack to also make pencil cases and bags for carrying shoes.

Jang Hyun-yeong, Mother of an elementary school student

This is a one of a kind backpack, and my kid hears, your mom’s handicraft is excellent, so they seem to be proud of it.

Parents’ stress is deepening as they take a meaningful first step for their children instead of being swept away by businesses.

Comments from Naver:


The parents buy those expensive backpacks because they’re worried their kids might be ostracized?…;; Aren’t the parents the ones who are creating this trend in the first place and kids who follow it?


Aren’t parents the ones who like showing off more? Although it was in a drama, I saw parents who would get all dressed up for a parents’ meeting, and sit there comparing their bags and cars.


Sigh…it’s frustrating…when I was in elementary and middle school, we didn’t ostracize other students for something like that…


If you are fully prepared for your retirement without relying on your kids or the government, who care. But if you have nothing and you act like that, you are just full of vanity.


Let it be. If they can afford to buy a 700,000 won backpack, from the outset they’re not part of the class that worries about the commoners.


But it’s really just to satisfy the parents themselves, kids just dump them in the gym and then go play.


Okay I read your article well, Reporter Kim Joon-seok. It seems your article deliberately aims to instill a sense of deprivation in readers. Just how many parents are actually like this? This was an article worth posting for hits, but I wonder if it’s a newsworthy article. In any case, you did some work to cover the article.


To tell you the truth, it’s not something to be jealous of, but it shows that the parents don’t have anything in their brains. If they want to buy something expensive for their kids, a 100,000 won item is sufficient, and that can be more eye-catching. Who would know the backpack you bought was worth 700,000 won? keke the moment they realize that it’s worth 700,000 won, they will be like “Ah~” and mock you in their mind.


You should know that the kids who carry these expensive brands will become the target of criminals. Bird-brained Mrs. Kim, is your head in the right place?


For elementary schoolers, the backpacks with popular characters you can buy in the street markets are the best…


This is too much…It’s the parents who are at fault, not the kids…Please reflect on your actions.


I’m also a parent of school aged children, but there are a lot people I just don’t get…As my kid got to the upper grade level of elementary school, I bought a 20,000 won backpack because the older one looked too small, and our kid is excited to carry it. Instead of buying what the parents want, just buy what the kids want.


I’m really curious…Do 700,000 won backpacks really sell that well? Not just in Gangnam? Not just the backpack companies’ media play? I don’t understand who’s buying them. Only rich people would buy them. Don’t write the article to make it seem like everyone is buying them. Isn’t it the media who advertise and promote them? Don’t parents get to know about such backpacks because of this article?

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  • redwhitedude

    There better things to spend all that extra cash than an expensive Kid’s backpack.

  • Chucky3176

    The same bags probably cost only $70 in Japan. Yet, they don’t have enough of them to sell in Korea for $700. It’s gotten to the point, as the last man in the TV interview said, “foreign companies now have the marketing strategy that says they have to jack up the prices really high in South Korea”. Higher the prices, the better brand image and better sales – Marketing 101 when selling in South Korean market. Yet they complain about the high costs of raising children in this country, and not enough retirement pensions and social programs for the old. Well duh…when you blew all your money on your kid’s $700 back packs and $2000 coats, of course you’re going to be broke when you retire. Don’t expect the government to bail you out for your own poor planning.

    • redwhitedude

      About that household debt….

    • 8675309

      “…same bags cost only $70 in Japan”??!! Obviously you’ve never been to Japan. I have, and I also have relatives living in Japan with school-aged children who have typical ransels or “randoseru.” I asked them how much they paid, and they said the top-of-the-line leather randoseru backpacks for schoolkids cost about ¥60,000 (about $600) with all the bells and whistles, although they start at around ¥36,000 ($360) for leather ones and around $200 for synthetic leather, so your “$70” quote is waaaay off!

      • Guest

        yeah but the koreans aren’t buying randoseru, they’re buying just normal backpacks (and randoseru are usually used for you’re entire elementary school time, so 600 for 6 years is expensive but it’s not 700 a year, and sometimes they’re passed on to younger relatives)

        • 8675309

          Koreans ARE buying randoseru imported from Japan – they’re the latest craze in Seoul right now simply b/c they’re imported and expensive, which means they’re the most sought after kids’ items here in Gangnam. What – you actually thought they were shelling out $700 for a cheesy and flimsy “Captain America” knapsack that retails for $14.95 at Wal-Mart? LoL!! (We can get those for even cheaper here in Korea!!)

          • rami

            I think the point of the previous commenter, randoseru bags are firmly established as part of the japanese academic experience (with an arguably justifiable cost due to usage and longevity) but not necessarily in Korea. Since that is the case why would koreans buy one for their kid? A reasonable explanation would be that the randoseru happens to be “in trend”. The cultural climate makes it so that once that trend dies down, people will move onto the next expensive trend without so much a thought. That mentality of course isn’t limited to South Korea, it just manifests in this particular way that may seem more favorably reflective of japanese consumer values in comparison.

          • rami

            but I will add that I don’t personally think many metropolitian koreans do or would shell out $$$ for a schoolbag for their underaged kids, the style of which can change depending on whichever way the wind blows.

          • 8675309

            Pricey schoolbags for “underaged kids”? What, exactly, is the allowable age, in your esteemed opinion, to be able to own a schoolbag, let alone an expensive one?

  • lonetrey / Dan

    It’s… so pointless if it’s for a little kid.

    I bought a $100 (rounded up. I think it was around 70-80) backpack that I used for throughout all of college and still use today. It’s been with me for roughly a decade.

    These kids will have to discard their little backpacks when they grow bigger…. seems like such a waste.

  • commander

    I think the newscast is quite a sensational. Of course, buying an elementary schooler a $700 brand name backpack is an extravagant and ostentatious act.

    But the problem is about how many parents do so.

    Given that it’s hard to get the precise stats, an educated guess could use the sales of high-end backpacks. But it’s also not easy as brands are expected to be reluctant to disclose the numbers.

    My ball park figure is not that high, I mean they may be a small portion of the entire population.

    This program has the purpose to fuel a sense of incongruousness?

    Any country in the world, super rich people have the money to burn or those with as much vanity want to join the ranks of the ultra-rich, splurging money beyond the means.

    So, is this really a big deal?

    • rami

      I agree

  • Yaminah Jamison

    I thought like… $25 was expensive for a bookbag for a kid….. Guess I wrong.

  • UserID01

    Yet another case of parents thinking that money spent = measure of how much they love their kids. The poor kids’ parents don’t love them as much as I love mine, because I can afford to spend enormous amounts of money on bullshit to make myself look like a more doting parent!

  • pac

    i rather spend that money on whores and beer.

  • Realist

    South Korea’s wealth which purely comes from the USA and Japan needing a successful state on the mainland in the cold war era and their importance which has eroded ever since China came in from the cold can be likened to:

    a bunch of trailer park trash who won the lottery and instead of investing in their future and for future generations decided to splash it all on expensive toys and return to poverty a short time later….

    • Kimchi nacho man

      Considering that many Koreans who lived through the brutal Japanese occupation and civil war lived to see their country and children enjoy a better life than they were able to with highly educated population I think Koreans have done well investing in their future. You should maybe worry about the future of your own country rather than wasting your time worrying about other countries future..

      • Realist

        In OECD, highest poverty rate, highest youth unemployment rate, highest suicide rate, lowest birthrate…

        Yeah, I’m envious.

        • Bill

          A low birthrate resulting from increased affluence and educational attainment in a high population density country is a good thing provided it’s not too fast or long running. A low birthrate is a sign of having become a first world country. It’s only problematic for the burden of paying for retired people.

          South Korea has the highest elderly poverty rate in the developed world, people born when South Korea was poor, not for South Korean people in general. That title goes to Israel and followed not far behind by the US and Japan. Among children, the future, South Korea has a lower poverty rate than the US, the UK, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Ireland, France, and others. South Korea has a lower overall poverty rate than the US and Japan.

          If their suicide rate is reason not to envy them, what then of doctors?

          • guest

            If you don’t die young, than you grow old – care of the retired is a problem for all first country where people don’t die young so much anymore

            Watching how unhappy my grandma was after she was put into a good nursing home, and remembering how bittemy great grandmother became even though she lived to the end of her days with us, I think more focus should be put on quality of life rather than quantity. There is so much restriction at the nursing home because they don’t want old people to fall and die – I think I would rather fall and die quickly than to be nagged and ‘guided’ at all turns.

            They say dying in bed is peaceful, that comes at the end of limited mobility though…I rather die in a hiking accident,

    • Bill

      Aside from some elderly and immigrants… what poverty?
      They’re about #11 in the world for average disposable income and about #17 in gross income. They stand at about #15 in HDI. They’re right alongside countries like Japan and much of the West in these measures.
      They’ve invested in their future and are looked on by other countries as a model. They’re the world’s 7th biggest exporter and it’s mostly things they make.
      In what way have they lost?

  • Dave Park

    Kids don’t need bags with 14k gold on them. My kid is going to have a JanSport bag like I had growing up and thats that.

    • bag

      Fuck that let’s play titanic, bitches

      • Dave Park


    • YourSupremeCommander

      Damn, you had a JanSport when you were a kid? You boss!

    • guest

      I brought this purple no name backpack that was beside an identical looking Jansport one, mine was 6 bucks, the Jansport one was 20 bucks. I’ve been using mine for a year now and I have heavy texbooks – it’s still good. I think the same company made the backpacks and then the more pricey one is sent to Jansport for branding (and maybe quality check), Jansport has many variety of backpacks after all,,,

  • bigmamat

    Well hopefully they won’t have to buy another backpack for a long damned time. I always bought my kids a $20 backpack every year. Sometimes I paid a little more, sometimes I had to replace them before the year was out. I suppose in the end I had invested at least that much in backpacks.

    • Chucky3176

      $20 for a backpack? I wouldn’t pay that much when I can get one for $10.

      • bigmamat

        Well, $20 was my high figure most of the time. If I could get something maybe at the end of the season and hold it till next year. Whatever. They usually needed something that would hold up to about 40 lbs.

    • poop

      I use a northface hiking backpack as a school bag since I started highschool and now I’m an undergrad. I think it’s ok to buy expensive ones but if it is more than 30$ just go for something meant to deal with heavy duty so it will last longer. Mine was about 150 For 5-6 years with no apparent damage.

    • guest

      An expensive leather bag might last a lifetime – but maybe the kid wants a different looking bag every year, and kids being kids, stuff gets scratched, stolen, lost, etc – so your cheap bag strategy is of the win.

      • bigmamat

        Hey don’t I know they wanted a new cell phone every year even though our contracts were always for two years. At least once we started using android phones they were happier and didn’t complaiin a much.

  • vonskippy

    PT Barnum must be laughing his ass off.

  • guest

    I used to be bullied in grade school, and so I avoided wearing the gold and jade jewels my relatives gave me because I don’t want those to be stolen with my other school things too!

  • MIssHana1007

    I hate wearing backpack. Usually I go to school by tying up my book with this product (image) and stocking my pockets with necessary stationeries. Its a good habit I practiced until I finished my degree.

  • goldengluvsk2

    There has always been this kind of trends in schools like with cellphones, coolest shoes, tamagochis at one time, etc. but this is alll for the parents and it always has been tbh… lots of parents teach their kids to be obnoxious bullies because theyre probably obnoxious materialistic bullies themselves.

    I remember buying different low cost and high cost bags that had to be replaced in the blink of an eye and then there was this jansport trend -they were and still are considered expensive bags- that were great quality so I bought a couple and even gave away one… Hope those $700 bags are resistent and last til theyre in college!

  • WannabeXenophile

    I can hear an adage about money going around and around in my mind … ‘a fool and his money are easily parted’ I think it was.
    I had a reading bag for books the school gave me and I went through about two/three rucksacks in primary school and none were as expensive as that! Even considering inflation, this is madness. That sort of money should be in their kid’s savings account …

  • Sid Driver

    It was only a few years ago that Northface was a big brand name for school children to wear and your status depended on how expensive your coat was. These are probably the same parents doing the same thing.

    On another note, last year or the year before there was a craze for Canada Goose jackets. (From the Heirs drama I believe.) I was asked by several of my Korean friends about Canada Goose and they were surprised to hear that I had never heard of it. I asked my Canadian friends as well but they didn’t know about it either.

    I think it’s just the allure of something foreign and expensive that makes it so popular.

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