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Korean Cosmetics Exports Surge 34%, Led by Demand in US and EU

2014 set to be a record year for Korean cosmetics exports, with burgeoning sector now valued at US$740 million.

Photo: Korean cosmetics: Enjoying an export makeover.
Korean cosmetics: Enjoying an export makeover.
Photo: Korean cosmetics: Enjoying an export makeover.
Korean cosmetics: Enjoying an export makeover.

While consumer electronics, industrial goods and automobiles have traditionally dominated South Korea's exports, cosmetics products are now proving a major growth area. This has seen the sector's export level apparently surge in the first half of 2014, while the number of importing countries has also risen substantially.

Combined exports of beauty products in the first half of 2014 increased by 34.5% year-on-year, according to a recent report released by the Korea Health Industry Development Institute. The sector is now valued at some US$740 million.

Although the research institute attributed this rise to the growing appetite for Korean pop culture, the biggest growth areas were in Europe and North America, regions where K-pop and Korean dramas have made comparatively little impact. Instead, it has been suggested that much of this increased demand is due to the higher levels of product recognition and awareness in these markets.

Overall, cosmetics exports to Europe rose from US$20.3 million to US$35.1 million in the first half of 2014, a 72.5% increase over the first quarter of 2013. Over the same half-year period, exports to Canada and the US rose by 44.4%.

It was Asia, however, that predictably stayed top of the league (in value terms) for Korea's cosmetics export market in the same period. Overall, China was the biggest importer (US$211 million), accounting for some 28.6% of all exports in the sector. Hong Kong was the second largest (US$141 million), followed by the US and Canada (US$69 million). Japan came in fourth place, having dropped from normally being second or third over recent years.

In terms of quantities of exports, however, it was a different picture. Here Japan ranked third behind Hong Kong in the first half of 2014, according to the Korea Customs Service. In 2013, Japan came second with 9.217 tonnes of exports, ahead of Hong Kong's 5,230 tonnes.

If the sales figures prove to have held up for the second half of 2014, it will have been a record year for Korea's beauty products export sector.

Hailey Hong, Seoul Consultant

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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