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IKEA to finally open Thursday

Swedish furniture retailer shows confidence despite controversy

Swedish furniture juggernaut IKEA will finally open its first Korean store Thursday amid recent controversy over its pricing policy and sale of items deemed anti-Korean.

The 131,550-square-meter store in Gwangmyeong, just outside Seoul, is said to be the world’s largest IKEA store to date. A total of 8,600 items ranging from bookshelves to kitchen furniture, bathroom goods and children’s toys will be sold, while its cafeteria will sell affordable Swedish and Korean foods. Targeting family customers, the store also has a nursery that will take care of children for up to one hour. 
Showrooms filled with IKEA products at the company’s Gwangmyeong store in Gyeonggi Province. (IKEA Korea)
Showrooms filled with IKEA products at the company’s Gwangmyeong store in Gyeonggi Province. (IKEA Korea)

Sixty-five rooms ― measuring about 55 square meters ― will be filled with IKEA products to showcase how northern European furniture can harmonize with the Korean room structure.

“We have visited some 80 Korean households and surveyed 1,000 people by telephone to come up with the idea of the ‘average’ Korean home and apply the IKEA theme to it,” said Seong Jin-ok, country communication and interior design manager at IKEA Korea.

The customers are recommended to look at the catalogues first to get an idea of IKEA’s design philosophy, then stroll around the store before listing their favorite items on a piece of paper to later pick them up at the storage section. Bulky products are packaged to fit car trunks.

The furniture outlet came under fire here for labeling the waters between Korea and Japan as “Sea of Japan” rather than “East Sea.” The Fair Trade Commission also vowed to review the prices of IKEA products after critics pointed out that they are priced higher than its store prices in other countries.

But the world’s largest home furnisher appeared not to be too perturbed by the media frenzy. “We are now open so we hope people will come, see and experience IKEA in their own way, not based on what others say,” Patrick Schuerpf, country project manager of IKEA Korea, told The Korea Herald on Monday after a news conference ahead of the opening.

IKEA has 345 stores in 42 countries. The company reported 27.9 billion euros ($34.7 billion) in sales last year.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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