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[SUPER RICH] Korean cosmetics guru eyes young consumers to gain momentum

‘Cosmetics have become a daily necessity. I will start from the beginning to regain lost time and consumers.’

Charmzone chairman Kim Kwang-seok has returned to what he is good at: Making face cream.

His skincare company -- once the dominant player in the Korean cosmetics market -- is seeking to get back on track with its newly launched antiaging cream.

Charmzone chairman Kim Kwang-seok (Charmzone)
Charmzone chairman Kim Kwang-seok (Charmzone)

“Cosmetics has become a daily necessity. I will start from the beginning to regain lost time and consumers,” the pharmacist-turned-entrepreneur said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

The 31-year-old company, which made headlines in 1991 for becoming the first Korean cosmetics firm to obtain approval from the Japanese government to sell its products in the neighboring country, has built a reputation for solid quality.

Charmzone has pursued high-end products, targeting middle-aged women. Now it is turning its eyes toward the younger generation to embrace the new business environment.

“In the past, women in their 40s who have buying power were our main target. But we realized that we have to reach 20-somethings to make them use Charmzone products continuously,” he said.

The new strategy is reflected in its latest product -- Dr. Frog Tocovita Energy cream. The package design is much simpler and brighter than previous high-end lines.

By printing an illustration of the chairman’s face on the bottle, the firm has tried to show its confidence on the derma cream, which it claims is the “ultimate edition” of its products.

It has also lowered the price by one-tenth to 40,000 won ($36) per bottle, compared to its most expensive line, to make it affordable for young consumers while maintaining the same ingredients.

The newly launched antiaging cream contains a patented ingredient, Tocovita-C -- a combination of fat-soluble tocopherol and water-soluble vitamin C.

“The company’s 49-years-old technology and know-how are condensed into Dr. Frog Tocovita Energy cream,” he said.

The chairman’s cream making history goes far beyond the foundation of his company.

Kim founded Charmzone in 1984 based on his 20 years’ experience as a successful pharmacist.

He started mixing dermatologic products in the 1960s by chance to cure a type of scabies from Japan that spread in Korea after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

This experience led him to study dermatology and develop external applications for skin diseases. His pharmacy named “Pi Bo” gained fame nationwide for its dermatologic remedies through the 1970s.

“We used to sell mostly through general cosmetics stores, but from 2000, the beauty market diversified to online, large discount stores and home shopping, and we didn’t keep pace with the change,” Kim said.

Since the beginning of 2000, local brand shops such as Etude House, the Face Shop and Innisfree have sprung up everywhere, especially in downtown shopping havens to attract attention.

On the back of the Korean wave and Asia’s burgeoning middle class, the Korean cosmetics market is facing an unprecedented boost.

“We cannot go against the general trend of this era, we will focus on online and mobile platforms and further strengthen our footing in overseas markets,” Kim said.

As a part of such efforts, Charmzone launched its premium line “Charm In Cell” store at the Harvey Nichols Department Store in Hong Kong in April.

It also started selling duty-free products on China’s four major airlines in 2013, while being the best-selling cosmetic brand on Japan’s home shopping channel QVC for years.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)





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