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Cosmetics tycoon enjoys explosive growth

AmorePacific chairman Suh Kyung-bae is wrapping up another record year as his business and fortune continues to grow at an explosive pace.

The country’s largest beauty products-maker, which has global brands such as Sulwhasoo and Laneige under its wing, is expected to post over $200 million in exports this year, the first time for a local cosmetics producer, according to the firm. 

AmorePacific chairman Seo Kyung-bae
AmorePacific chairman Seo Kyung-bae


Receiving credit for this achievement, the chairman, who has turned his family’s cosmetics company into a Pan-Asian powerhouse, was granted the highest industry honor by the South Korean Trade Ministry on Monday.

“The cosmetics industry, previously regarded as a localized and declining business, has become one of the top export items today,” Suh said after the Gold Tower Order of Industrial Service Merit during a ceremony commemorating Korea’s 52nd Annual Trade Day.

“AmorePacific has led the globalization of Korean beauty products and grown as a major company in the world’s beauty market by diversifying its brands and distribution channels,” he added.

Since 2011, the group’s exports have risen by more than 30 percent every year, hitting $182.52 million this year by October.

Analysts said Suh has been playing a crucial role in riding the K-beauty boom -- largely driven by China and Southeast Asia -- partly due to the rising popularity of Korean entertainment and culture.

Forbes selected Suh as Forbes Asia’s 2015 Businessman of the Year, saying: “The sudden ascent of Suh and his company is inseparable from the success of South Korea itself. Korean popular culture has come to define what is sexy, cool and fashionable throughout East Asia.”

Such success has turned the chairman into the country’s second-richest person after Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee. According to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, Suh’s total wealth reached $8.5 billion, up 55.7 percent, or $3 billion, from the beginning of the year.

In 2014, AmorePacific’s net income climbed 36 percent to a record 222.4 billion won ($204 million), with total sales rising 21 percent to 4.7 trillion won, a sevenfold increase from 1997, when Suh took over from his father, Suh Sung-whan.

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

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