Many guitar brands have outsourced their manufacturing overseas due to the lower costs over the past few decades. However, what should be noted is that seeing a “made in Korea” label on your guitar shouldn’t be a red flag. In fact, it should be quite the opposite. Over the last few years, Korea has been gaining praise for its quality of manufacturing.
Brands of Guitars Made in Korea
For the most part, it seems like World Musical Instruments Korea handles many guitars that are made in Korea. This is a large manufacturer based in Incheon, South Korea that handles production and manufacturing for a large number of guitar brands. I looked into some of these guitar brands that are Made in Korea and here is what I found out.
Gretsch Guitars is an American company that has been making guitars for over 139 years. They offer a wide range of guitars from acoustic to electric guitars for beginners and professionals alike.
And where are Gretsch guitars made? Although some of their guitars are made in the United States, most of their guitars are manufactured overseas. Fender Musical Instruments Corp. handles the manufacturing and distribution of Gretsch Guitars. Several factories produce these guitars in countries including Japan, China, Indonesia, and Korea.
Specifically, their Electromatic line hollow-body is made in Korea (the solid-body are made in China). This line of guitars is considered mid-range, but for the price of the guitars, the quality is great. Marketed as giving you “Gretsch power, style, and performance”, the line offers a few variations in design and many color options.
Although Eastwood Guitars is headquartered in Brampton, Ontario in Canada, most of their guitars are built in China and Korea. They are known for making vintage-style guitars across the board from acoustic to electric, as well as ukuleles and electric mandolins.
Their guitars are built overseas before being shipped to Chicago, Nashville, or Liverpool for a final inspection before they are sold to customers. Information as to which Eastwood guitars are made in Korea is sparse. However, it seems that the lower price point guitars are made in China and the higher price point guitars are made in Korea at World Musical Instruments.
Founded in 1952, Guild is a US-based guitar manufacturer that produces a variety of acoustic, electric, and bass guitars. Their first guitars were produced in New York City at 536 Pearl Street. However, like many large guitar companies, their manufacturing has in part moved overseas. Now, Guild manufactures their guitars in California, China, Indonesia, and South Korea.
Their Newark St. electric guitar is made in South Korea, Indonesia or China, depending on the model.
Chapman Guitars is based in the United Kingdom. Founded by Rob Chapman in 2009, the company is known for producing electric and baritone guitars, as well as bass guitars.
Broadly speaking, Chapman Guitars has three series: the British Standard Series, the Standard Series, and the Pro Series. The British Standard Series is all made in the UK, the Standard Series is made in Indonesia, and the Pro Series is made in Korea at World Music Instruments.
For the past 45 years, Dean has been making and manufacturing guitars including electric, acoustic, and bass guitars. Although currently headquartered in Tampa, Florida in the United States, the company was founded by Dean Zelinsky in 1977 in Chicago, Illinois.
As they are a larger guitar brand, Dean Guitars are made in various factories across the USA (including a custom shop), Japan, and Korea. Their guitars that are made in Korea are mostly entry-level to mid-range guitars.
Founded in 1969, BC Rich has been making guitars for over 50 years. This American brand is known for producing guitars associated with heavy metal music after they gained popularity in the 1970s for their electric guitars.
BC Rich produces their high-end guitars in their custom shop in the USA and their entry-level to mid-range guitars are produced in Asia. Although it is difficult to pin down exactly which models, we know that World Music Instruments produce some guitars for BC Rich in their factory in Korea.
Michael Kelly Guitars
Founded in Clearwater, Florida in 1999, in the beginning, Michael Kelly Guitars only made mandolins and acoustic basses. They have since expanded their marker and make acoustic and electric guitars.
The sound and performance of their Dragonfly collection is what put Michael Kelly Guitars on the map. Now, they import high-quality guitars made in South Korea, manufactured to their specifications.
Like many other guitar companies, Schecter was opened by David Schecter in Van Nuys, California primarily as a repair shop in 1976. They mostly focused on manufacturing guitar parts and found success by supplying guitar parts to other guitar manufacturers. By 1979, Schecter was offering their first fully-built electric guitar.
Their instruments were initially known to be very high-quality but also very expensive. You can read more about their early history here.
By 1997, Schecter Guitars began manufacturing some of their guitars at the World Musical Instruments factory in Korea. Guitars would be built here before they were shipped to the US for set-up and distribution to customers.
In addition to building their guitars in Korea, Schecter Guitars also has a custom shop located in the USA that recently expanded in 2012 to offer more customization from within the USA.
Founded in 2008, Diamond Guitars is an American guitar manufacturer based in Muncie, Indiana in the USA. Originally known as DBZ guitars, they changed their name to Diamond Guitars in 2013.
Known for producing electric guitars, pickups, and amplifiers, it seems like Diamond Guitars are produced in Korea, also at the World Musical Instrument factory.
Perry Ormsby started his company back in 2003-2004. Perry was originally a carpenter who was passionate about guitars. He would ponder how guitars were built and how he could build them. After building his first guitar, he quit his job and sold his house, and in no time, he was designing and building custom guitars for a growing list of clients.
His incredible story has led him to build his brand to a point where he needed a larger workforce. Ormsby Guitars ended up partnering with World Musical Instruments in Korea to build their GTR range. The guitars are checked both in Korea and in Australia for quality control before they are released to the customer.
PRS (Paul Reed Smith) Guitars
Beginning his company in 1985, Paul Reed Smith began making guitars. He would complete a guitar and then play a gig with it to see how it went. Adapting his designs based on his experiences. After never giving up on his dreams, Paul was able to get enough funds together to start his company. You can read more about his journey here.
Now, PRS SE guitars are made in Korea at the World Musical Instruments factory. They also make some of their guitars in the USA, Indonesia, and China.
Other Guitars That Are Made In Korea
Here is a list of other guitar brands that I found with less information available that are made at the World Musical Instruments factory in South Korea.
- Brian May Guitars
- Line 6
- Wylde Audio
Some Companies That Did Build Guitars in Korea (But Now Don’t)
There are a few guitar companies that did build some of their guitars but have since ceased operations in Korea. Fender is a perfect example of this. For some time, Fender was building some of their guitars in Korea, however, due to the increasing costs, they decided to end operations in 2002-2003 and move these operations to Mexico.
Ibanez also made guitars in Korea, as well as other Asian countries for some time.
If you are looking to buy a guitar that is made in Korea, the guitar was probably manufactured at the World Musical Instruments factory in Incheon, South Korea. Many guitar companies have chosen to produce their guitars in Korea because of the high-quality reputation of instruments coming out of Korea.