New 32-inch LED TVs released by discount chain store E-Mart under its own brand name for W499,000 (US$1=W1,107) are proving a hit, with the first batch of 5,000 units selling out in two days, the store reported.
The TV sets are manufactured by Taiwan-based TPV and are 40 percent cheaper than similar models manufactured by Samsung and LG Electronics.
E-Mart originally planned to sell the first 5,000 units over a period of three months, but the overwhelming popularity of the products has prompted it to place an additional order and bring forward sales of 42-inch LED TVs to later this year.
Samsung and LG are the world's No.1 and No.2 TV manufacturers, respectively, and account for over half of the flat-screen TVs sold in the U.S. They also control 98 percent of the domestic TV market, making it virtually impossible for other players to compete.
Against this backdrop, the success of E-Mart's new product marks an interesting development. Samsung and LG have been racing to produce bigger and more expensive TVs with a view to dominating the high-end segment of the global market. In the domestic market too, large and expensive TVs with a dizzying array of functions are mostly available for consumers, leading many analysts to question when the bubble will burst.
Demand for digital TVs is surging in Korea, where analog broadcasts are scheduled to be terminated at the end of 2012. But many consumers cannot afford the high-priced flat-screens being marketed by Samsung and LG. With the economy slowing and consumers feeling the pinch, it is natural they would look for reasonably-price electronics.
Japanese home appliance makers used to dominate the world market but suffered something of a fall from grace in recent years as they began overlooking consumers' needs and appetite, and instead focused on products that merely flaunt their technological prowess.
They continued to feature higher-priced and higher-quality products containing new functions that made it increasingly difficult for people to use, and consumers ended up turning their backs on the companies and their latest wares.
Korean electronics companies need to consider carefully whether they have grown too proud of their leading status, making them unable to see that they may be walking down the same path as their Japanese rivals.