[NOTEBOOK]Korea enjoys a fashionable niche

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[NOTEBOOK]Korea enjoys a fashionable niche

People never seem to tire of talking about the World Cup, so I will talk about it one more time. This time, I would like to look at the event from an aesthetic point of view.

The mothers, brothers and sisters who took to the streets to cheer for the Korean national soccer team were also "agents of beauty."

Nobody orchestrated how they should look. They appeared on the streets in their own makeup and fashions. They looked different, but they all looked beautiful. Korean national flags, draped across bodies, looked dandy and hip. Cheering devices, such as small plastic trumpets, or two red horns to symbolize "Red Devils," were cute. We had not realized until then, but Koreans were champions of beauty who had prepared for this for a long time. The cheering squad all looked great on camera. The foreign press had nothing to worry about when taking pictures of our fans.

The face paintings looked fabulous. It is nonsense to assume that each face was done by experts, so we can say artistic talents run through Koreans.

To experience traditional Korean culture, visit Korea House, in Pil-dong, and look around a shop that sells traditional artifacts. You may be surprised at the artisanship and sense of color that give vital sparks to wood and metal.

I am not blowing my own horn. When a Korean company opened a Korean traditional artifacts shop named "Bium" in New York City last November, $100,000 worth of products were sold just in 15 days. The artifacts on the shop's shelves are expensive; their average price is 300,000 won ($256). A curtain made with patched ramie fabric pieces sells for 7.8 million won.

Some Koreans criticize Korean people's spending hefty sums of money to be beautiful. They think these people are obsessed with how they look, driven by the competitive nature of Koreans. But I actually believe this trait is a competitive edge for Koreans. I would like to think some Koreans do not spare money on imported luxury goods, high-end cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, dieting or luxury clothes as a phenomenon created by Koreans' overriding interest in beauty and their sense of beauty. Thanks to the high standards and pickiness of Korean consumers, there is a possibility that Korea may give birth to a luxury brand.

Koreans have produced amazing records in the cosmetics market. Korea ranks No. 2 in the world in the individual use of cosmetics, and is the No. 3 market for Estee Lauder cosmetics, after Japan and the United Kingdom.

The level of quality that Korean women ask of cosmetic products is surprising, Fred Langhammer, chief executive of Estee Lauder, said during his visit to Korea late last year. The company learned a lot things from the Korean market and that knowledge is reflected in the development of products, Mr. Langhammer said. Korea is also an important market for testing new products, he added.

Dominique Szabo, the company's senior vice president, said Korean women look beautiful, and added that the clothes displayed in shops in Korea were extremely impressive.

Korea has also accelerated the pace of fashion. Complimenting fashion shops in Dongdaemun, buyers from Southeast Asian countries say Korea is an amazing country where fashion trends change weekly.

In a fashion show held in Hong Kong, Korean designers' clothes received a large part of the spotlight. Fashion schools in New York City show large numbers of Korean students. A host of Korean companies received awards in recent international industrial design contests, including the IDEA fair, which is organized by the Industrial Designers Society of America, and the IF Design Awards in Germany.

The bottom line: Korea has taken big steps to become a leading country in the beauty industry.

The Samsung Economic Research Institute recently reported that the beauty business in Korea has grown into a 26 trillion won ($22 billion) industry. Our potential has been confirmed. If you yearn for success, you may need to plunge into the beauty industry. You will see a Korea that leads fashion and beauty industries in the world in near future.


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The writer is the chief editor of life/leisure section at the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Il

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