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Korean brands sought out for quality, style

As the international reputation of Korean-made products from Korean companies like Samsung and LG continues to advance, the question of what distinguishes Korean brands from their competitors has emerged as a common topic of discussion among market watchers.

A special feature in the August 8 edition of Japanese daily newspaper Tokyo Shimbun took a closer look at the widespread positive reception that Korean brands have enjoyed among Japanese consumers in recent years.

The article described how the growing popularity of Korean-made smartphones as well as home appliances, which now come highly recommended by local vendors and consumers as products of quality and dependability, signals a significant cultural shift in the attitudes of Japanese buyers.

Whereas sales of Samsung smartphones took a mere 0.8% of the Japanese market in 2010, that number shot up to 8.5% within two years, making Samsung the fifth best-selling brand in Japan in 2012. The significance of this growth, argued the article, lies in the fact that Japanese consumers have tended to not only favor local technology but also regard Korean-made products in comparison as less reliable.

From smartphones to home appliances, Korean-made products have become popular choices for consumers across the world. Samsung smartphones (left) were featured in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, and LG’s latest smartphone model (right) recently debuted in Japan (photos courtesy of Samsung, LG). From smartphones to home appliances, Korean-made products have become popular choices for consumers across the world. Samsung smartphones (left) were featured in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, and LG’s latest smartphone model (right) recently debuted in Japan (photos courtesy of Samsung, LG).


As to why Japanese consumers’ perceptions of Korean brands have changed, as evidenced in the growing popularity of Korean smartphones, home appliances, LCD televisions, and automobiles, the article identified enhanced quality, smart long-term sales strategies, and effective national branding measures as the keys to Korea’s success.

Citing Japanese market research firm BCN, the article highlighted the success of efforts by Korean companies in the early 1990s to expand their markets to include Central America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Whereas comparatively high-priced Japanese products struggled to find buyers, said BCN, Korean products had been well-received by the new, growing middle classes that had emerged in these regions at the time.

Regarding Korea’s national brand strategy, the article described the sector-wide initiatives to publicize Korea abroad as having successfully combined culture and industry and resulted in an overall image of Korean products as stylish. For Japanese consumers, continued the article, this meant an ever growing variety of Korean goods to explore.

An article published in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on August 4 also touched on similar themes, spotlighting the widespread popularity of Korea’s technology, styles, and culture in Hong Kong.

The article described Korea, with all the products and images it entails, as being inseparable from daily life in Hong Kong, where the drama Dae Jang Geum, Korean food, Korean fashion, Korean mobile phones, and Korean computers have been welcomed as major fixtures of the city’s diverse landscape.

As for what makes Korean brands unique, the article pointed to the pride inspired by these brands among Koreans, who themselves avidly and readily make use of the mobile phones, televisions, and even apartment complexes that bear the Samsung, LG, or Lotte logos. Remarking on the positive reputation enjoyed by Korean companies at home in Korea in contrast to the relatively low popularity of local makers in Hong Kong, the article identified this and Korea’s ability to balance new trends with old tradition as key factors behind the country’s brand success.

By Kwon Jungyun
Korea.net Staff Writer

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