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More Korean shoppers seek bargains overseas

Aug 25,2018
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More Koreans than ever before bought goods online from overseas in the first half of the year, as sales of home electronics like vacuums and air purifiers grew sharply.

According to the Korea Customs Service on Friday, Koreans’ direct overseas purchases amounted to $1.32 billion, which is a 35 percent increase compared to the first six months of last year. The number of items bought increased 36 percent to 14.9 million.

The increase in direct overseas purchases is particularly explosive when considering that overall imports to Korea in the first half only grew by 13 percent to $265 billion.

By country, purchases made in China and Japan saw the sharpest increases.

Although purchases from the United States currently make a majority of overseas purchases, at 55 percent by value, or $730 million, China saw the sharpest growth.

By value, purchases that Korean consumers made from China surged 78 percent compared to a year ago to $204.8 million. By volume, it spiked 112 percent to 3.4 million goods. China ranks third in total value of goods at 16 percent, but is second by volume with 23 percent.

Purchases made from Japan grew the second most, increasing by 32 percent in value and by 30 percent by volume.

Health-related supplements and food were the most-purchased goods, with over 3 million units bought. Consumer electronics saw the sharpest increase, growing by 91 percent to 1.68 million.

Health related goods were mostly bought from the United States. Korean direct purchases of American goods grew 33 percent year on year to 2.6 million goods. U.S. health-related goods are some of Koreans’ favorite products, thanks to their diverse choices and cheaper prices.

Electronics were mostly purchased directly from China. When compared to a year ago, Korean consumers’ purchases of electronics goods from China surged 145 percent from 360,000 units in the first half of 2017 to 882,000 this year. Chinese electronics bought in the first half exceeded the amount of electronics purchased throughout all of 2017. The second most purchased item from China was clothing, which tripled from 234,000 items bought in the first half of last year to 693,000 this year.

Purchases of Chinese goods have been growing in recent years, as the quality of Chinese products has been improving and their prices are cheaper than domestic goods. The product that saw the biggest jump in sales was cordless vacuum cleaners, which grew by 742 percent, followed by air purifiers, whose sales increased by 118 percent.

The products that Koreans bought from Japan the most were premium toys like figurines, which rose 90 percent from 95,000 in the first half of last year to 181,000.

Women in their 30s were the top demographic for overseas shopping. Those in their 30s and 40s accounted for 71 percent of those buying goods overseas, with people in their 30s alone taking up 47.7 percent of all buyers.

Women accounted for 70 percent of all shoppers. While women in their 30s purchased health-related goods the most, men of that same age group favored electronics goods.

“Once massive discount events like China’s Singles’ Day [or Guanggun Jie] and the U.S. Black Friday are held, Koreans’ direct overseas purchases could even exceed last year’s all-time record of $2.11 billion,” said a customs service official.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]