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Asia Minute: Korean Cosmetics: Taking Over the World?

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Tourism brings more than 8-million visitors to Hawai‘i each year--a fact that has attracted a number of international businesses looking to capitalize on brand exposure.  That includes companies selling Korean cosmetics.  It’s a niche that has led to several new stores in the state over the past few years—and continues to be a growing part of Korea’s international trade. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Few countries are as dependent on trade as South Korea.  Government figures show more than half the economy comes from exports.  From semiconductors and electronics to cars and ships and iron and steel….Korea’s industrial giants rely on international trade.  And broadly speaking, the news has not been good lately.  Korea’s exports have fallen for 14 months in a row.

One exception: cosmetics.  The Korea Customs Service says exports of cosmetics rose more than 53% last year…to nearly $2.5-billion dollars.  Not only that—they’ve increased by an average of nearly 40% every year since 2011.

China is South Korea’s largest overall trade partner…and it’s also the biggest market for cosmetics—accounting for 40% of overseas sales when you include Hong Kong.  Japan is still a large market—though it dropped a bit last year in part because of a weaker yen.  The United States is a growth market—and Hawai‘i remains a particular area of interest.

A cosmetics executive told the Korea Times a few years ago that Korean cosmetics stores in Hawai‘i are “a test bed to catch travelers and gather information on the U.S. market.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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