Why doesn’t Target’s website work in South Korea?

Target.com doesn’t work in South Korea, and that’s a problem for Sean Bamrick, who is stationed there with his family. Can I help him unblock it?

Question: I’m currently stationed with my family in South Korea and for the last few months the Target website has blocked us from online shopping.

This may not seem like a large problem but there are hundreds of Army/Air Force families here that count on that website for kids’ clothing and other items that provide a taste of home.

I was hoping you could get a response from Target as to why we have all been blocked from shopping and shipping to APO addresses. — Sean Bamrick, Yangju, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

Answer: I can get an answer, but I’m not sure you’re going to like it.

Before I do, let me say that I feel your pain. I spent 16 years overseas, and I also longed for a taste of “the States” — whether it was a can of root beer or a block of cheddar cheese. This was pre-Internet, so the only way to secure said contraband was to befriend someone who worked for the U.S. military and could visit the commissary to buy a box of Cheerios or candy corn, products that were completely unavailable in that part of Europe at the time.

(By the way, for the uninitiated, APO, or Army Post Office, is a designation given to postal offices on US military bases overseas; FPO, or Fleet Post Office, is given to Navy bases overseas.)

Although Target ships to overseas military, it notes some restrictions on its website. For example, food, candy and chocolate can’t be shipped to APO/FPO addresses. Sigh. No jet-puffed marshmallows for you!

Also, “certain items can only be shipped to the continental 48 states via standard delivery, and cannot be shipped to APO/FPO addresses. This will be indicated on the product description page,” according to Target.

(If you want to try to ship those, one of my editors recommends the Amazon or Walmart websites. And he should know — he has a son who is deployed overseas with the Navy.)

I asked Target if it was blocking you from using the site in South Korea. A company spokesman offered a somewhat vague response.

“The vast majority of items sold at Target.com are available to be shipped to APO/FPO addresses,” he said. “Target.com is not accessible from all countries or domain name servers. We apologize for any frustration this may have caused.”

Here’s another possible answer: I’ve heard from other overseas military who say certain sites are blocked from their Internet service provider. Without actually seeing your screen and having access to your system settings, I wouldn’t know. If I had to take an educated guess, I’d say there’s a good chance Target.com is being blocked at your end.

Try accessing the Internet from your cell phone, an outside Internet account or a work computer, and see if that fixes the problem. That still won’t solve the problem of not being able to get a box of Hershey’s chocolate bars in time for Halloween, but it might fix the issue you’re having.

Update (9 a.m.): Target’s just sent me this statement via its Twitter account: “For various business reasons, Target may restrict access to our site particular domain name servers or countries.”

Do American big box retailers make it too difficult for members of the armed services to shop online?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • polexia_rogue

    as a fellow former solider- i am not sure if i understand the OP’s question. can he not access target’s site AT ALL? or can he just not get delivery to an APO? those are 2 different issues.

  • Benjamin Barnett

    Use a VPN like Witopia to mask your foreign IP address. That should do the trick, and if they ship to your location, you’re good. I live abroad, so I do this all the time.

  • $16635417

    Having a tough time with the poll question. I don’t have any personal experience with purchasing and shipping overseas to APO/FPO addresses, let alone trying to access big box retailers online from overseas. I’d have to say “no” based on this case.

    It sounds like the problem is with the OP’s ISP, and not Target. It would be difficult to fault Target for that, wouldn’t it?

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    He can’t access Target.com at all from where he is in South Korea. The site is blocked. It’s unclear how it’a being blocked though (from Target or by his ISP).

  • sirwired

    I don’t know how anyone can answer “yes” to the poll question. My brother is overseas, and I haven’t run into a single retailer that won’t let you put the appropriate APO state code when setting up a shipping address.

    Yes, certain items can’t be shipped APO, but that’s hardly the retailer’s fault.

  • omgstfualready

    Could it be the military is having it blocked via the ISP. Perhaps it is the word TARGET that is the problem b/c the military surveillance doesn’t want to filter out all those false positive hits from their data.

  • MarkKelling

    Various countries block various web sites. That is an unfortunate fact of life. However I would think that a computer located on a US military base should be able to bypass those blocks and get to any site. The OP should try a different computer located somewhere else to see if Target can be reached.

  • Office_Bob

    Using a VPN may not be possible/advisable if he’s using military infrastructure to access the internet; it would be a good idea to check the regulations first.

  • Benjamin Barnett

    Good point.

  • Stereoknob

    As a tip – You can use a proxy service such as “Hide My Ass” for about 5 dollars a month that will let you route your data through another country. HMA is good because it lets you choose your server location. What that means is you can appear to be located in Kansas or Massachusetts if there is a server there hence allowing you to order from Target. This also works if you have access to USA geolocated media like Hulu, Netflix, etc.. Generally that video is only available in the U.S. but if you use the proxy, it becomes available as you appear to be in the U.S. to the server.

    As far as I know, this isn’t illegal. You just have to game the system a little bit.

  • emanon256

    I voted no. I think its the local DNS service or or even the military itself blocking the site. I have a friend who is a captain of a carrier in the Navy and he said they routinely add new sites to their block list, because they have limited bandwidth, and need to limit it to official military business only in may cases. In the OPs case, I would think it was the country or DNS provider itself. Also, can you blame target for not shipping perishables to APO/FPO boxes, it can takes weeks sometimes and go through environmental extremes depending on where its going.

    I personally am not bothered by this, I have no use for US Big Box retailers when I am out of the US. I prefer to be a part of and support the local businesses. The most I have spend overseas is 2 months, so perhaps it would change if I was there for years. But even when stateside, I am not a fan of big box anything.

  • Monica Lynn Kennedy

    Being former military myself, and working for a company now that loves their privacy, I can say there’s a good chance it’s blocked by the service provider. Even when I worked at MCB Quantico (near Washington DC), I could not access retail websites because of the firewalls. My current company is the same. I have to use my home internet access to view those types of sites.

  • Daddydo

    While in Kuwait we had no liquor, Playboy mags, women had to cover their heads and faces, plus 100000 other rules. The US military indeed is a guest in the country that they are working for, so must live by that countriy’s rules. Those in the military do indeed suffer somewhat, but are doing their assigned duty. S Korea says no, then it is NO!

  • llandyw

    There’s a couple possibilities for the OP. Can try alternate domain names or direct access by IP address. A lot depends on how the site is set up. If it uses relative addressing for their links, then it should work. If it uses absolute addressing (eg: http://www.target.com/pagename) then it won’t work. Alternate urls are:
    IP addresses are: and
    If none of these work, then it’s probable that the IP addresses are blocked in SK. This is a good possibility due to the IP addresses.
    192.x.x.x is usually used in local area networks, not for internet addresses and as such may be blocked due to that.

  • Dutchess

    Proxy servers are your friend!

  • Mark Carrara

    I don’t understand the problem. Target doesn’t want to sell in Korea, fine. That is their business to sell where they want. It’s not like they are the only online retailer. Even if they were the US is not a command economy where someone other than the company decides where or when it can sell their products.


    My niece, who did four tours in Iraq, said that occasionally the military would block sites when use was overwhelming the available internet service. At times she could not access Target, Walmart, and several other sites. Based on her experience I would say this is not Target’s problem and is something done by the ISP, Korea or even the base at which they are stationed. And the question is useless because we do not know where the problem is. This question seems designed to get us to complain about a big box retailer. Sometimes these companies are not at fault.

  • bodega3

    That is my feeling on this, too, which makes the poll really ridiculous.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    As opposed to any of the other equally meaningless polls :-)

  • bodega3

    IMHO any poll is meaningless but if you are going to offer them, have them relevant to the article. Today’s poll is absolutely meaningless.

  • davidglass

    VPN for the win

  • Bill___A

    This is not fixing something that is wrong, this is circumventing something that is intended to be a certain way.
    I don’t think this is the role of a consumer advocate. Obviously, it is intentionally not available for one reason or another.

  • technomage1

    I’ve never had a problem with accessing the site of the retailer while overseas – and I’ve spent 15 years stationed in various locations around the world. Now, they didn’t always ship to an APO, but I could see the site.

    No big deal, shop at amazon or walmart or another site that is available.

    A larger problem for me was blocking of video content. It drove me nuts the sites that would block me since I was on a foreign server. Didn’t matter that I had a US address or was paying with a US credit card, Xbox, Hulu, and other sites wouldn’t allow me to access content. It’s gotten better over the years, but still is a problem. Same as shopping, I use iTunes or other outlets that do allow me access.

  • technomage1

    If you’re on a government computer, they can and do block sites for various reasons. However, you shouldn’t be shopping for personal use on one at a garrison location. Downrange they usually allow it, mission permitting, for morale reasons, but at home station people should have their personal internet anyway. In Korea mine was dirt cheap, too, something like $20-$30 a month for high speed service.

    You’re right, though, this is an ISP issue, not a target one.

  • mizmoose

    I will bet 1 million quatloos this person is using naver.com, a large S Korean ISP known to block many things outside of its own country.

    S Korea has a lot of restrictive laws about what can and cannot be transmitted over the Internet there, and they often go overboard about blocking in a “better safe than chased down by the Government” method.

  • mythsayer

    Just get an ip blocker that says you’ve got a us IP address. We used one in Japan to get netflix. He could have asked this question on his base’s fb classifieds page. This type of question was common in iwakuni.

  • mythsayer

    He can use a VPN blocker from his internet at home either on or off base. It’s totally legal. I just got back from Japan and we all used one for a variety of reasons (Netflix, ordering, Apple TV). It’s same in Korea.

  • mythsayer

    Companies block ip addresses that show as not in continental us (try netflix overseas and you’ll see). A VPN is the easy answer.

  • mythsayer

    That’s how I did it.

  • mythsayer

    Since the internet provider is linked in overseas, the IP address shows as overseas. This was true even after we got americable.

  • mythsayer

    In this case, it’s not the military but actually target. They want a us IP address.

  • mythsayer

    Families live there too and shop online you realize? It’s not him shopping while he’s on duty. His wife probably wants to shop too and they have Internet at home. The point is that all he needs is an ip blocker not a consumer advocate.

  • mythsayer

    Yup… This exactly. Only people who’ve lived and worked on a base overseas really understand the issue here. It’s totally different from living alone overseas. You have this quasi American existence and it feels like you should get netflix bc you live on base but you can’t (I’m not saying you’re entitled to it… I understand why they block the foreign ip addresses)

  • technomage1

    And I said something different than this how? I was responding to FQTVLR, whose niece did use a (presumably) government computer or network in Iraq, and pointing out the difference between garrison use and downrange use. The Korean ISP isn’t going to limit use based on mission requirements….

  • Jessica Ibarra

    One word: chaebol.

  • mobiuschic42

    I’m a bit late to the game here, but I live in Japan (as a civilian) and regularly send packages to my sister and her family, stationed with the State Department in Africa. I’ve never had any problems accessing Target (I’ve got it open right now!), so I would guess that maybe it’s being blocked at the ISP, but Target’s Twitter message does call that into question.
    A good alternative is Amazon, where you can even easily filter for items that can be sent overseas – though I’m not sure if there’s a similar filter for APO/FPO addresses. Yes, there are some food and other items that can’t be shipped. For those things, I use my parents (who live on an army base in the states, heh) as an intermediary, though I know not everyone has that option.

  • Health1au

    Use Hotspot Shield, and Target will work. So will Grooveshark, and lots of other things too. SK censors can go take a flying … k.