Seoul's Itaewon and Myeongdong shopping districts are a mecca for fake designer goods. They are sold in either underground shops to avoid police or from handcarts in the streets. Some luxury brands send out their own patrols. A special police task force at the Korean Intellectual Property Office charged with protecting trademarks detected 28,589 fake items last year that would have been worth about W14.5 billion if genuine.
The problem is not limited to Korea. U.S. Customs and Border Protection found US$179 million worth, which CNN reported would be worth W1 trillion if genuine.
Fakes reflect the popularity of a brand, and the fake markets in Korea and the U.S. show a stark contrast in terms of consumer preference. In Korea, 4,158 of the seized items were bags, topping the list, followed by 2,751 garments, 2,480 electrical and electronic goods, 1,443 pieces of jewelry and accessories, and 1,176 shoes.
But in the U.S., smart devices such as iPhones and iPads topped the list with 22 percent. There has been an increase of more sophisticated fake goods that look like an iPad but work on Android operating system. Shoes came second with 14 percent, worth US$97 million.
While low to mid-end products such as Nike dominated the fake market in the past, now it is high-end haute-couture designer shoes such as Christian Leboutin and Jimmy Choo. Third place went to prescription drugs like Viagra, followed by CDs and DVDs, clothing, perfume, and watches. Tobacco ranked eighth and computer hardware 10th.