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Imports of masks, air purifiers soar

With public concern mounting over fine dust and other forms of air pollution, imports of related items have skyrocketed.

According to data released Thursday by the Korea Customs Service, the total value of imported masks hit $23 million last year, more than a threefold increase from $7.1 million in 2014.

The agency explained that public concern has persisted since the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome last summer that had increased demand for masks.

Last year, 79.3 percent of imported masks were manufactured in China -- mostly disposable and cheap -- followed by Vietnam. The average unit cost of imported masks also decreased from $0.055 in 2013 to $0.045 in 2014.

Imports of air purifiers increased by 21.8 percentage points to $32 million last year.

Within the first five months of this year, the total amount of imported air purifiers reached $43 million, surpassing last year’s $32 million.

Industry watchers said that costly home appliances such as air purifiers and vacuum cleaners equipped with strong dust filters that are built to remove microorganisms were also gaining popularity. Air purifiers manufactured in Malaysia, China and Canada and vacuum cleaners manufactured in Vietnam and Denmark topped the list.

The KCS did not reveal the specific brands.

Imports of vacuum cleaners totaled $220 million last year, a 31.6 percent point increase from 2014. Sales of vacuum cleaners from January to May this year reached $130 million.

Imports of daily supplies for oral hygiene also went up by 3.7 percentage points, reaching $16 million last year.

Mobile social commerce company Ticket Monster -- one of the most-visited shopping platforms for household appliances -- said last month that the sales of products related to air purification, such as masks, air purifiers and pot plants, saw two- to fourfold on-year sales increases in May.

It explained that while the sales of air purifying products mostly ceased around May last year, sales and consumer demands on those products have been constantly increasing this year even after the spring.

It added that the largest group of consumers who purchased goods related to air purification last year were mostly women in their 30s (36 percent), followed by men in 30s (29 percent), men in their 40s and women in their 40s.

By Kim Da-sol (
Korea Herald Youtube