Chic and cheap: China takes shine to South Korean cosmetics

Wed Aug 7, 2013 5:06pm EDT
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By Hyunjoo Jin

SEOUL (Reuters) - Cosmetics brand Laneige has a French name and luxurious blue-and-white packaging but its legions of fans in China, the world's third-largest beauty products market, love it because it is South Korean and affordable.

Laneige, or "the snow", is one of about two dozen brands made by South Korea's biggest cosmetics company Amorepacific Corp which is using its Asian cachet and pocket-friendly prices to give global firms like L'Oreal SA, and Procter & Gamble Co a run for their money.

Other South Korea cosmetics manufacturers like LG Household & Healthcare and Able C&C are also using similar strategies to expand in China's beauty and personal care market, which is estimated to be worth $34 billion this year.

"We're taking aim at P&G's Olay and L'Oreal Paris in China's mass market segment with our entry-level brands," said Lee Chang-kyoo, head of Amorepacific's corporate strategy team.

"Our company is able to quickly read market trends and roll out products when something is in vogue," Lee told Reuters. "Recently Chinese local brands are also really doing well, so they are also our competitors."

Paris-based L'Oreal and Cincinnati, Ohio-based P&G declined to comment.

Korean beauty brands have little global renown, but in Asia they are household names because of perfectly groomed celebrity ambassadors such as actress Song Hye-kyo, singer Yoona of Girls' Generation and male entertainer Kim Hyun-joong.

Korea's vibrant entertainment industry has wide appeal in the region, and its stars are often held up as an ideal of beauty by both men and women.   Continued...

A tourist (L) shops at a store of Missha, a budget brand of Able C&C in central Seoul August 6, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won