Dragon motif a cash cow coveted by local retailers

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Dragon motif a cash cow coveted by local retailers

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Customers admire a sculpture of a black dragon in the lobby of Lotte Department Store’s headquarters in central Seoul. Provided by the company


A huge dragon sculpture greets customers in the lobby of the headquarters of Lotte Department Store in Sogong-dong, central Seoul, to celebrate 2012.

While the Year of the Dragon returns in a 12-year cycle, the Year of the Black Dragon, or imjin in Korean, is a much rarer event and serves as a huge marketing opportunity, particularly for the retail industry

Due to the connection in the Chinese zodiac between the 12 animal signs and the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water, each one pairs up only once every 60 years.

Jan. 23 sees the advent of the year of the water dragon, which is associated with the color black - and good luck for those born in a dragon year - but retailers are not letting a trifle like the distinction between the Gregorian and Chinese Lunar calendars delay their promotional frenzy.

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From top to bottom: Lotte Mart’s black dragon-themed coin banks; Lotte Mart’s boxer shorts featuring a dragon print; and Lotte Home Shopping’s dragon-shaped gold ornaments. Provided by the companies

Starting yesterday, Lotte Department Store began giving out bokjumeoni, or traditional Korean good luck pouches, filled with $2 bills as free lucky gifts for 100 customers each day on a first-come, first-served basis. The promotion runs through Monday.

Meanwhile, I Park Department Store in Yongsan District, central Seoul, is offering discounts of up to 10 percent on selected items for shoppers born in the dragon years of 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988 and 2000.

The same consumers are entitled to 5 percent off any furniture they purchase by the time the store closes today and up to 10 percent off any jeans or casual sportswear until Jan. 15.

Hyundai Department Store said it will start selling a limited number of fan-shaped gold and silver medals with dragon prints targeting customers who like to collect rare items. And Galleria Department Store in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul, has been displaying dragon-shaped crystal ornaments.

Shinsegae Department Store said it will also kick off a series of events related to the Year of the Black Dragon next month.

Twin Wine, an affiliate of LG, relied on comic illustrations of dragons to help sell over 7,000 bottles of wine that were promoted as being linked to the dragon year in just weeks this month, it said.

The labels were designed by Korean painter Huh Young-man, who created “Shikgaek,” a comic book series about Korean food, and were available on four vintages of French wine: Riviera 2010, Prince de La Riviere 2010, Les Sources du Chateau de La Riviere 2010, and Chateau de La Riviere 2006.

Twin Wine said it has rapidly sold all of its limited-edition vintages since it began releasing them ahead of the start of the lunar calendar for the past two years.

Additionally, Lotte Mart has introduced various items featuring the mythical beast on its food and beverage labels. The discount store plans to sell products with the timely packaging at half price until Monday.

Its dragon-printed makgeolli, or Korean rice beer, has been reworked with an enhanced taste and greater nutritional content, the chain said. As the dragon is black, this special beverage is made with black beans, sesame and black rice. The three black grains are fermented in traditional makgeolli pots, with 6,000 bottles available at 2,600 won ($2.25) each.

“We have put makgeolli on special offer to wish customers good health in the coming year,” the retailer said.

The black dragon is even appearing on underwear, with Lotte selling panties and boxer shorts emblazoned with its motif or the corresponding Chinese characters for between 3,800 won and 4,800 won. According to Korean myth, wearing nice underwear brings good fortune, especially if it is red.

Two dragon-shaped coin banks are also on sale at the same discount chain, based on the assumption that this will appeal to parents buying gifts for their offspring next year in place of a regular piggy bank. The smaller version costs 3,500 won, while better savers may want to opt for the larger 10,000 won model.

The mart is also running a “black food event” featuring pesticide-free black rice (9,000 won per 800 grams), gochujang, or spicy pepper paste, made of black garlic (11,800 won per 4.5 kilograms) and black bean milk (14,800 won per 32 200-millileter packs) at half price.

“We have prepared various items that are imbued with the healthy spirit of the black dragon,” said Choi Chun-seok, a Lotte Mart manager.


By Kim Mi-ju, Song Su-hyun [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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