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K-beauty gains ground despite pandemic as Korea’s cosmetics exports rise 16%

Staff and shoppers look at products at a cosmetics store. (Yonhap)
Staff and shoppers look at products at a cosmetics store. (Yonhap)
In a positive sign for the Korean beauty industry, South Korea’s cosmetics exports enjoyed a 16.1 percent year-on-year increase last year despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Korea’s total cosmetics exports reached $7.57 billion in 2020, the latest data from the Korea Customs Service and the Korea Cosmetic Association revealed on Sunday.

The country’s cosmetics exports had enjoyed double-digit growth rates every year since 2012 until the figure dipped to 4.2 percent in 2019.

When broken down by country, $3.81 billion was generated in China, up 24.5 percent, followed by the US, Japan and Vietnam, where exports grew by 21.6, 59.2 and 18 percent, respectively.

The jump in exports has also been supported by the growing popularity of K-beauty, comprising Korea’s skin care and makeup products, particularly in Europe and the US where small and medium-sized companies exported more last year.

But China remains the biggest market for the country’s beauty industry, which now accounts for 50.3 percent.

Skin care products came out on top, accounting for $5.98 billion, up 17.6 percent while hair products including hair dyes and bath products also enjoyed a bump in exports.

Cosmetics imports to Korea dropped 6.2 percent last year to $1.48 billion, maintaining a downward trend for the second year running.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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