February 22, 2023 08:48
Koreans are getting richer and making global headlines with their spending on expensive bling, but the reason may be that they are trying to numb the pain of existence.
A Morgan Stanley report last month shows that Korea beat Europe, Japan and the U.S., in terms of per-capita spending on luxury goods. Koreans spent US$16.8 billion on luxury clothes and handbags last year, up 24 percent from 2021, fueled by a profoundly materialistic culture and a need to flaunt their wealth on social media.
Luxury carmakers are still rubbing their eyes at the purchasing power of Korean customers. Rolls Royce set a new sales record in its 118-year history and cited surging demand in Korea as one of the reasons. A total of 234 Rolls Royces were sold here last year, each vehicle costing more than W500 million (US$1=W1,296). That's up 37 percent compared to 2021 and almost the same as Japan, where 240 were sold.
Where Mercedes-Benz, Bentleys and Lamborghinis are concerned Korea has already overtaken Japan even though it only has half the population.
Malls reflect the trend. Department stores in Korea are experiencing record sales, while those in Japan are closing down one by one. Tokyu and Odakyu department stores both closed down their flagship stores in Tokyo's Shibuya and Shinjuku late last year.
But wealth doe not translate into happiness. Korea ranked 32nd out of 33 member countries of the OECD on the Better Life Index, which measures the status of wellbeing. Korea ranked at the bottom in a similar study by the UN, and at the bottom in terms of the quality of sleep.
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