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Hallyu boom aids Korean companies in Indonesia

Korea’s first trade show in Jakarta woos emerging market customers

JAKARTA ― Hallyu, the Korean Wave triggered by the popularity of South Korean soap operas, has driven a rise in pop culture-related exports across Asia.

But it is also helping Korean manufacturers expand in the Southeast Asian market with their consumer products.

It is allowing them to promote their goods as “fashionable and friendly” to local consumers.

“I tell people that this cream is the teardrop of Kim Soo-hyun, the actor who played the protagonist in the Asia-wide hit TV drama, ‘Moon Embracing the Sun,’ and people like it,” said Lee Seung-jae, CEO of Aroma Newtech, a mid-size cosmetics company, at the Korea Sourcing Fair in Jakarta last week.

The hand cream was made with water from the Dogo hot spring in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, which was used as one of the shooting locations for Kim’s 2012 drama.
Lee Seung-jae, CEO of Aroma Newtech, presents his products to visitors at his booth at the trade show last Thursday. (KITA)
Lee Seung-jae, CEO of Aroma Newtech, presents his products to visitors at his booth at the trade show last Thursday. (KITA)

Lee rubbed the cream on his hand to show off its moisturizing effects to a group of local buyers at his booth.

“It definitely captures our eyes and ears when we hear about Kim Soo-hyun because he is a hot celebrity here,” said Lin Binbo, a merchandiser at the event, which is hosted by the Korea International Trade Association.

“When a product is introduced and you have a Korean star involved, it surely makes the product look sophisticated but familiar.”

Aroma Newtech is among 31 Korean companies that joined KITA’s trade show, the first of its kind that the association has held in the Indonesian capital. KITA said each company had up to 20 pre-arranged meetings.

Ranging from medical needles for cosmetic surgery to colorful wrapping paper, smartphone holders, health supplements and skin care products, businessmen sought to attract buyers who could open doors for those seeking to enter the Indonesian market.

“As the people’s income rises, with the KITA noting that 56.7 percent of the some 240 million people in Indonesia are classified as middle class, we are seeing an increase in demand for beauty (products), health supplements and other consumer goods. And I believe hallyu has boosted Korean products’ positive image,” said Park Gwi-hyun, director of the Asia and Oceania Department at the trade association.

Some industry experts said that business people should take more advantage of hallyu.

“I suggested that they decorate their booth more colorfully, and adopt an image using the Korean Wave whether they are related to it or not,” said Jung Sung-sook, head of Global Sources Korea, a Hong Kong-based media company that co-hosted the trade show.

“The main reason Indonesians are becoming more attracted to Korean products is clearly because of hallyu. They think it is colorful and unique. And image matters to them.”

Indonesia is Korea’s eighth-largest export market, and is 11th-biggest source of imports.

Korea’s exports to Indonesia reached $6 billion in the first half of 2014, and Korea imported $6.3 billion worth goods in the same period.

By Bae Ji-sook, Korea Herald correspondent