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Slower pace of living trend to watch in 2012

Consumers likely to react to hyper speed, hyper connectivity by seeking slower pace

The year 2012 promises to be a tumultuous one, with general elections and a presidential election taking place within eight months of each other. The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has introduced an additional element of uncertainty.

While it would be difficult to predict the outcome of the elections or the state of South-North relations, many forecasts have been made concerning major trends that affect our society and lifestyle.

Gazing into the crystal ball, what do trend spotters and those on the frontline of their professions see in 2012?

A trend that is most frequently predicted by marketing and trend forecasting experts for 2012 is smart working. The concept is not new, but 2012 will be the year in which smart working really takes off, bolstered by the widespread use of various smart devices such as smart phones, tablet PCs and the prevalence of network services, according to “SERI Forecast 2012” by Samsung Economic Research Institute.

In July 2010, the Korean government announced a plan to implement smart work. The aim of the plan is to improve productivity and realize work-life balance. The announcement was followed by the opening of nine government smart work centers so far, where civil servants can go to work, instead of their regular offices. The plan calls for some 30 percent of the working population to be working under the smart work system by 2015, with some 50 public smart work centers and 450 private sector smart work centers available throughout the country. 
Illustration by Han Chang-duck
Illustration by Han Chang-duck

Under the system, one can work virtually anywhere: from home, smart work centers or mobile offices. It also means that more flexible working conditions are feasible. This has the effect of reducing carbon emissions and possibly increasing the low birth-rate plaguing Korean society by allowing for improved work-life balance.

The growing prevalence of smart devices means that there is a greater need for the protection of personal information. The recent cases of personal information leaks have alerted the public to the need for greater security. The Personal Information Protection Act that came into force on Sept. 30 will begin to see its impact in 2012, according to “SERI Forecast 2012.”

Interestingly, many of the trends in 2012 will likely be attempts to counteract the hyper connectivity and hyper speed of digital life.

A reaction to the prevalence of SNS, “virtual suicide” is growing, according to “Trend Korea 2012” by Seoul National University Consumption Trend Analysis Center. It is virtually impossible to completely erase our virtual selves on the Internet but there are a growing number of services that can assist in “unfriending” your SNS “friends.” These services meet the needs of the tell-all generation who see a need to erase their Internet past.

“Trend Korea 2012” also predicts that people will seek “blank time” to remove themselves from the hectic and always connected everyday life. In the “hyper” society, people will increasingly seek to “switch off and recharge,” it notes.

This tendency to withdraw will have implications for the way we travel and vacation. Instead of going on tours with the aim of taking in as many sights as possible, travelers will seek itineraries that cut them off from their daily lives: vacationing in nature and even staying at home will become significant trends.

“Individually tailored vacation itineries will be the trend while China and Southeast Asia will be the preferred destinations as there are no significantly long weekends and Japan is still suffering from the aftermath of the massive earthquake earlier this year,” says Kim Yong-dong of Red Cap Tour.

Another noticeable trend that is also tied to people’s desire to slow down is the city farmer, “2012 Mega Trend in Korea” by notes. All you need is a rooftop or a balcony to harvest your salad greens to satisfy your hankering to be part of nature and, at the same time, meet the desire for self-sufficiency.

When it comes to food, “rawganic” is emerging as a key trend, says “Trend Korea 2012.” The increased interest in health and a craving for a special story are driving the demand for rawganic, a combination of raw and organic foods.

Rawganic is a step-up from organic, which has become more mainstream in the last several years. Another food trend, foraging food, literally refers to foraging for ingredients in their natural state. Like rawganic food, foraged food also has an element of rarity. Both rawganic food and foraged food are about taking out the additives rather than adding things that are claimed to be good for you.

A slowdown is also being detected in the fashion industry which has seen the phenomenal success of fast fashion in the last several years. The use of sustainable textiles is something an increasing number of consumers appreciate. Vintage and second-hand fashion items are also in line with the slow fashion trend, as are locally handmade items and fair-trade clothing.

Stylistically, fashion in 2012 will see modern chic as a predominant trend, says to Samsung Fashion Institute in its annual fashion review and preview.

“New modernity style, a classic code reinterpreted with pragmatism and experimentalism, will garner much attention,” the report says. In keeping with the general mood of yearning for nature in urban life, the outdoor-wear style will continue to stay strong.

Continuing on to the topic of beauty, wavy hairstyles that accentuate the feminine image will be predominant, according to Lee Sang-il, owner of Park View by Hair News in Sinsa-dong, Seoul.

“The natural look is preferred, styled with products to achieve a wet and shiny look,” said Lee. Makeup also gets a feminine touch with focus on the eyes.

It is impossible to discuss beauty in Korea without delving into cosmetic surgery. While the last few years have seen many celebrity faces transformed dramatically with surgery of the upper and lower jaws that alter the shape of the face, 2012 will see the use of less drastic procedures. The emphasis will be on maintaining one’s basic facial shape while improving the look.

“There will be efforts to maintain self-identity while seeking a balanced and harmonious look,” said Dr. Park Jae-woo of Dr. Park’s Plastic Surgery in Jamwon-dong, Seoul. In fact, trend forecasters foresee consultations with a physiognomist before deciding on cosmetics procedures.

Dr. Park predicts the use of less invasive surgical procedures and the use of Botox, fillers or laser to sculpt the face. These procedures generally involve less down time, with patients returning to work a day or two after a procedure.

“The hallyu fever has contributed to Korea’s cosmetic surgery becoming well known internationally and many foreign patients are coming to Korea from near and far. I think there will be development of more procedures with quick recovery time and few post-surgery complications,” said Park.

Speaking of hallyu, the popularity of Korean popular culture, particularly K-pop, will remain on the upswing. Noting that the popularity of K-pop driven by idol groups has spread from Southeast Asia to Japan and now to Europe, South and Central Americas and the Middle East, “SERI Forecast 2012” says that hallyu will be a strong driving force in the local tourism sector.

“The number of tourists visiting Korea to see K-pop stars reached 34,000 in 2010, a two-fold increase year-on-year,” the report says, predicting that the trend is expected to lead to more visitors and experience-oriented tourism.

“Hallyu 1.0 was about dramas while hallyu 2.0 revolved around music. Hallyu 3.0 will see the spread of hansik, hanbok and Hangeul. This will be followed by hallyu 4.0 where Korean fine arts will make their mark internationally. Ultimately, hallyu 5.0 will see the spread of Korean aesthetics,” predicts “SERI Forecast 2012.”

Already, the Korean art market is thriving, as shown by the Korea Art Market Price Index, known as KAMP50. The price of major Korean art works increased by 27 percent in the first half of 2011 over the second half of 2010. In fact, the art market outperformed the stock market and real estate market during the same period.

The super rich who entered the high-end art market at the end of the Gulf War will step up from merely buying art to sponsoring large scale art exhibitions and establishing foundations to build collections, noted Kim Hyo-seon, CEO of Art303, an art consulting firm.

“In Korea, young collectors, who tend to be professionals, will continue to seek works by promising artists in the 10 million won to 20 million won price range,” says Kim. Much of the bubble was removed in 2011 and this combined with more collectors showing interest in works by Korean artists harbingers positive developments in 2012, she noted.

By Kim Hoo-ran, Culture desk editor