Korean Electronics Companies Hope for Better Business in Japan

  • By Byun Hee-won

    March 21, 2023 08:25

    Korean electronics makers look forward to improved business in Japan, which has been a difficult market to penetrate.
    Japanese consumers prefer domestic brands over imports unless they are considered top of the range, and fractious ties between the two governments made matters worse. But as bilateral relations began to thaw late last year, Samsung and LG's market shares in Japan rose, and Korean start-ups also began to do business there.
    Samsung rose to the No. 2 spot in Japan's smartphone market last year for the first time in two years. According to market researcher Strategy Analytics, Samsung's Galaxy phones accounted for 10.5 percent of the market, ranking second ahead of Sharp's 10.1 percent. But top-ranked Apple's iPhones took 56.1 percent in the style-conscious country.
    In 2017, Samsung's market share stood at just five percent but rose to a distant second place with 10.1 percent in 2020, only to be overtaken by Sharp and fall again to 9.7 percent in 2021.
    Signs of improvement began to appear in the first quarter of 2022, when Samsung's share edged up 1.7 percentage points on-year to 13.5 percent, the biggest in a decade. In 2013, Samsung took up 14.1 percent but still ranked third after Sony.
    Now the Korean electronics giant will resurrect the Samsung logo for the first time in eight years when the Galaxy S23 hits stores there early next month. Samsung ditched the logo on phones sold in Japan in 2015 and used the Galaxy brand name instead.
    LG is also expanding its presence in the island country with high-definition TVs. According to market researcher Omdia, LG accounted for 7.7 percent of Japan's OLED TV market in 2022, up 0.4 percentage point on-year in a market where Sony, Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba rule supreme with a 90-percent share.
    Sales of LG's Styler, a refrigerator-sized machine that pumps steam to kill odor-producing bacteria and allergens in business suits, have grown rapidly since it was released there in 2017.
    Korean IT start-ups have also been taking root in Japan with localization strategies and competitive services. Exchanges of IT specialists between the two countries, which slowed significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, have shown signs of recovering recently as well. 
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