How do we buy protective face masks in Korea during the COVID-19 pandemic? Here’s what you need to know in order to buy face masks in Korea during this challenging time!
Shortage of face masks in Korea
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shortage of protective face masks in Korea for a while now. To mitigate the shortage, the government has provided subsidized masks limited to 2 per person per week with some exceptions.
How & when can foreigners buy face masks?
Foreigners need to present their ARC (alien registration card) at participating pharmacies and they need to be registered with Korea’s National Health Insurance. By showing one’s ARC card, the pharmacies can verify your information. Because of the 5-day rotation system for mask distribution, you can only buy masks on one designated weekday based on the last digit of your birth year. Let’s say you were born 2001, in this case, your last digit is 1 which means you can buy on Mondays. You can check the nearby pharmacies around you if they have masks in stock or not on the Korean map applications like KakaoMap or Naver Maps. See the graphic below for more information:
Mondays -> Birth year ends with a 1 or 6
Tuesdays -> Birth year ends with a 2 or 7
Wednesdays -> Birth year ends with a 3 or 8
Thursdays -> Birth year ends with a 4 or 9
Fridays -> Birth year ends with a 5 or 0
Saturdays and Sundays -> Available for those who are unable to buy masks during the week.
*Foreigners are unable to buy masks on behalf of others.
How can Korean citizens buy masks?
The same rules apply to Korean citizens. Koreans need to show their government issued ID in order to buy face masks at pharmacies – two masks per person per week on their designated day. However, Korean citizens are also allowed to purchase masks on behalf of family members who are unable to. Those include children under 10 years old, elderly citizens over 80 years old, and the disabled.
Other ways to purchase face masks
Certain post offices and Nonghyup Hanaro Mart are also selling face masks. However, these are rationed to one per person per day. Anyone is still able to buy non-subsidized masks at other locations online and offline but the price will vary. To read more about COVID-19 health information see our other blog post: Korea Entry Procedures and Healthcare Information for COVID-19