The Korea Herald


China buys fewer Korean goods amid waning perception: report

KITA says Korean exports not in line with changing consumer sentiment in China

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : March 5, 2023 - 15:39

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Chinese customers shop for Korean goods during special exhibition of Korean products held in Lotte Mart's Jiuxianqiao branch in Beijing, China. (Herald DB) Chinese customers shop for Korean goods during special exhibition of Korean products held in Lotte Mart's Jiuxianqiao branch in Beijing, China. (Herald DB)

The number of Chinese consumers who bought Korean products plummeted last year amid China's falling perception of Korea-made commodities, according to a survey conducted by the Korea International Trade Association.

KITA conducted a survey on 1,000 consumers living in 10 major Chinese cities to gain insight into changes in their perceptions toward Korea-made goods since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, released Sunday, found that the percentage of Chinese consumers who responded that they bought Korean products at least once over the past five years fell to 43.1 percent from 78.7 percent in 2020.

The plunge was more apparent among younger consumers in their 20s and 30s. Those living in major cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, also showed a decline in their purchases of Korean products.

During the same period, no changes in consumption were found among top-selling products, including beauty and fashion products, as well as food.

The plunge in purchases appears to follow the waning perception of Korea-made goods in China.

In the survey, 54.5 percent of the respondents selected the option “positive” when asked about how they think of Korea-made goods, while 10 percent of them selected the “negative” option.

Compared to a 2020 survey, people who responded positively to Korean goods declined by 5 percentage points, while those who responded negatively increased by 6.6 percentage points.

As for the reasons given for not purchasing Korean products, they cited negative consumer reviews (35.9 percent), Korea’s national image (34.6 percent) and low product competitiveness (33.6 percent).

Complaints about product quality, after-sales services and high pricing also greatly increased compared to the pre-pandemic period, the survey found.

Following the pandemic, KITA said, a growing number of Chinese consumers are turning to domestic products, also choosing Europe, the US and Japan as their preferred markets to replace consumer goods from Korea.

In order to meet the changing consumer sentiment in China, KITA urged Korean companies to make efforts to diversify their selection of items to include baby products, kitchenware and health-related goods, as well as strengthening their cosmetics products.

KITA also stressed the need for a dual-pricing strategy targeting the Chinese market as the income gap between Chinese consumers has widened during the pandemic.

As purchases through social networking platforms such as Douyin are increasing in popularity, KITA also emphasized that Korean companies need to expand their Chinese online retail channels, focusing mainly on popular Chinese e-commerce platforms like Tmall, Taobao and Joybuy.

"The status of Korean products in the Chinese consumer market has plummeted due to the sharp drop in exchanges between Korea and China over the past three years," said Shin Sun-young, head of KITA's Shanghai branch.

"We need a two-track strategy to improve Korea's brand image by first preparing companies to enter the Chinese market. Then, we must provide support to companies that lack preparation by providing them with competitive products and marketing plans to have them successfully enter the Chinese market," said Shin.