The Korea Herald


Top 8 purchases of 2020

By Lim Jeong-yeo

Published : Dec. 31, 2020 - 17:17

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We are what we buy. Our purchases reflect our needs and desires, formed by the circumstances and trends of the time.

If before, people spent money on goods that would enhance their exteriors, such as garments and cosmetics, in pandemic-ridden 2020, confined to homes for the most part and always hidden behind masks when outdoors, many opted to buy items that would enrich their lives at home instead. In this listicle, we decided to pay tribute to the buys that made this weary year more bearable.

1. Dishwasher

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Anyone remember that TV show featuring a stereotypical fresh-off-the-boat Asian family, where the mom forbids the kids from using the dishwasher because it’s wasteful? That cliche is no more. More Koreans were seen professing their love for dishwashers on social media this year, given the increased volume of dishwashing that ensued from work-from-home culture during the worst spikes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One anonymous reader told The Korea Herald that “the dishwasher saved me from a near-divorce,” with an expression halfway between a chortle and a grimace.

Refrigerators also sold well during the pandemic because people needed more storage space for frozen goods, according to electronics industry insiders.

2. Air fryer

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Be it frozen food or fresh vegetables and meat, simply putting food in an air fryer worked magic for people formerly unaccustomed to cooking at home. Not only did air fryers offer a quick solution to the three-meals-a-day routine for families, it also minimized cooking smells in tiny living spaces. Some even took up baking with air fryers, as a newfound pastime to replace habitual trips to local dessert shops.

Coffee machines were also popular this year as people made their own coffee at home instead of going to cafes. In recent years, statistics showed that Koreans consumed more coffee than rice. When cafes limited their offerings to takeaway due to COVID-19, many people set aside a corner of the home and started a makeshift home cafe.

3. Indoor bicycle 

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COVID-19 was bad enough for gymgoers, who had to trade treadmills for jogging uphill and downhill through Seoul’s challenging landscape. Then came the winter. No longer able to hit the banks of the Han River or go up a nearby mountain in the biting cold, which plummeted as low as minus 15 degrees Celsius, Koreans brought training gadgets home.

One couple told The Korea Herald that their Christmas gifts to each other were an indoor bicycle and a Nintendo Ring Fit.

“The bicycle sold out after we bought one, even when the website had limited the purchase to one bike for one person. As for Ring Fit, earlier in the year when it was also low on stock, people sold it at a premium rate,” they said.

Thick premium yoga mats were also more in demand as people sought to muffle the noise from their workouts to avoid disturbing neighbors on the floor below.

4. Monitors, webcams, cell phone stands

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People now assemble online more comfortably than ever before. Simultaneous video chats with multiple parties have enabled cross-country conferences and holiday family gatherings, without the need to board a plane or travel far away. Social distancing has been a key element in curbing the spread of the coronavirus, and it was all possible thanks to the technology that kept our dear ones in reach.

Premium TV monitors and web cameras, as well as cellphone stands, were popular best buys.

These items doubled as portals to online entertainment, such as on-demand video services and games.

5. Vacuum cleaner

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High-end vacuum cleaners were one of the most mentioned best-buy items of the year. Spending more time at home, people were more attentive to cleanliness.

“I could see my hair everywhere,” said one reader, who said she’d bought a robot vacuum that moves about on its own to remove dust and hair from the floor.

Others said they’d traded up their existing vacuums for newer, more branded merchandise.

6. Loungewear

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The fashion formula in the pre-COVID-19 era, for most people at least, was pretty clothes for outside, and comfortable, whatever-you-want clothes for home that might mean mismatched pants and T-shirts. But parties have moved indoors now. Working from home, and perhaps making a one-mile trip to the convenience store for some quick restocking, people were suddenly in need of clothes that were cozy enough for home but at the same time proper for a short walk. Loungewear, or one-mile fashion, saw a boom. From fashionable jogging pants to colorful fleece jackets and cool slippers, retailers scrambled to meet the demand.

7. Game console 

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Before COVID-19 swooped down on the country, most Korean gamers were inclined to play video games in the vast “PC rooms” or internet cafes that could be found on every corner. Internet cafes have rows of super-low-latency computers equipped with pay-to-use games already installed, paired with high-definition screens and individual headsets. It’s the perfect playing field for gamers and friends. Unfortunately, internet cafes had to close during the pandemic. What satisfied the Korean enthusiasm for video games, after that, was console games. Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing, for example, gathered a huge following during the peak of social distancing. What stood out in this trend was the influx of people who were new to gaming and wanted to explore new home entertainment options.

8. Pet care products

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More people spending time at home has led to more households with pets. According to data released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Dec. 28, the number of households with pets was tallied at 5.9 million, up 13.5 percent from the year before. Correspondingly, the pet care product market is burgeoning. There are applications that facilitate remote health consultations from veterinarians, sitters who can visit at set times, robot companions for pets to play with, and customized burial services for pets.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (