Cosmetics overcome ThaadIn early August, I visited Shanghai to attend the founding ceremony for the Chinese branch of the World Beauty Cosmetics Association (WBCA). More than 100 Koreans representing small and medium-sized cosmetics companies, beauty contest winners and Miss International Beauty Pageant participants and some 500 beauty and cosmetics industry insiders from all over China, Russia, Germany and Vietnam attended the event and made the Korea Beauty Cosmetics Show a success.
Many were concerned that the Thaad deployment could affect the event, but the atmosphere was quite friendly. Chinese businessmen said that Thaad is an issue between the countries, and business was a separate issue. Any Chinese people who have ever used Korean cosmetics have become almost addicted to the products and strongly preferred them. While Chinese visitors decreased in the aftermath of the Thaad deployment, the cosmetics sales revenue at major duty-free shops is about the same or slightly higher, and indicators show that demand for Korean beauty and cosmetics products continues to expand.
However, there are lights and shadows here. Most sales come from AmorePacific, LG and other conglomerates. 11,000 small and mid-sized cosmetics companies are still worried about survival. Peddlers called “traffickers” used to visit Korea and carry cosmetics products, but their route has been blocked due to strict inspections by the Chinese customs authorities.
Small and medium business vitalization and job creation are slogans only. Some small and medium companies have a dangerous sense of crisis and discontent for the government. Kotra and the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Start-ups are working hard to support them. However, it is doubtful whether the budget is spent wisely.
The beauty and cosmetics industry is not demanding assistance but a realistic prescription for survival. An owner of a Korean cosmetics company that participated in the Shanghai Beauty Cosmetics Show said, “Why should we suffer from the Thaad retaliation? We don’t need the government’s help. If politics are good, we won’t worry about the nation and can sell our products just fine.”
*Chairman of the World Beauty Cosmetics Association