Chinese Consumers Ditch Korean Cosmetics for Japanese

  • By Han Kyeong-jin

    December 13, 2019 12:56

    The popularity of Korean cosmetics in China is waning due to an onslaught by Japanese beauty products. Korean cosmetics companies reigned at the top of the Chinese market over the last three years but are thought to have been overtaken by Japan this year.

    Information provider Global Trade Atlas (GTA) said Thursday that Japanese cosmetics topped the Chinese market in the first 10 months of this year with US$2.47 billion. Korean cosmetics slunk to second place with $2.43 billion followed by French with W1.86 billion.

    Industry watchers say Japanese beauty products offer trusted quality backed by cutting-edge materials. Shiseido is the best-known brand among Chinese consumers and sells 24 different labels in China, half of them premium ones like SK-II and Clé de Peau Beauté.

    Shiseido's sales grew 32.3 percent in China last year and it invested almost W400 billion in marketing there this year (US$1=W1,188).

    Korean cosmetics became all the rage in China after the 2013 TV series "My Love from the Star" became a megahit there, which brought about a huge demand for a Korean lipstick the heroine played by Jeon Ji-hyun used.

    But they have plummeted amid the unofficial boycott of Korean products since 2017 and Japanese companies used that to their advantage.

    China's market for imported cosmetics has burgeoned over the last three years. China's total cosmetics product imports until October this year totaled US$9.68 billion and are expected to surpass $10 billion before the end of this year. The total size of the pie has almost doubled from $5.13 billion in 2017.

    Until 2015, French cosmetics ranked top and accounted for 28.5 percent of the Chinese market. But Korean rivals overtook them in 2016 because the French brands failed to gauge consumer demands while lagging behind Korean rivals in the latest trends in premium and independent products.

    Now they account for just for 18.7 percent of the market. According to GTA, Japanese exports are ahead of their Korean rivals only by a small margin but are growing steeply at 34.8 percent since last year, compared to Korea's 14 percent.

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