Chinese are willing to buy Korean again: KITA

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Chinese are willing to buy Korean again: KITA

Three out of five Chinese consumers who stopped buying Korean products after a controversial missile shield was installed in Korea said they would resume purchases once the issue between the two countries was resolved, according to survey results released Wednesday by the Korea International Trade Association.

A larger percentage of Chinese consumers, 74.8 percent, agreed that the two countries’ soured relations over the missile shield known as Thaad had a negative impact on sales of Korean products in China.

In March, the U.S. military, citing growing threats from North Korea, installed the Thaad missile defense system in South Korea. Although the purported target is North Korea, the Chinese government believes Thaad also threatens its security interests in the region and has quietly encouraged a consumer boycott of Korean goods.

KITA conducted its survey with 1,000 consumers in 10 major cities across the Chinese mainland. About 87.1 percent of them said they had purchased Korean products before.

Among 450 respondents who said they stopped purchasing Korean products, 63.1 percent answered they would reverse their position if relations improve.

“An amendment in Korea-China relations is expected to come fast as the two vowed to reconcile last month,” KITA said in its report. “However, it seems we will need more time for Chinese consumers to actually regain confidence in purchasing Korean products.”

The Chinese market has been robust this year, importing 1.8 percent more foreign products between January and August compared to the same time last year. Korea, though, has been unable to profit from this boom.

China’s imports of Korean consumer goods recorded a steep decline of 24.8 percent year on year during the same period. Korea’s share in the Chinese consumer market was cut in half from 5 percent in 2010 to 2.5 percent this year through August.

KITA hopes that the resumption of tourism from China to Korea after a months-long ban due to the Thaad issue and diffusion of Korean entertainment will eventually pull up sales in the long run.

The assumption was based on survey results that showed respondents who had experience visiting Korea generally had a more favorable view of its products.

Around 83 percent of those who traveled to Korea at least once felt positively about Korean products, while only 27.4 percent of those who never traveled to the country gave the same answer.

By product type, beauty products were the most popular among Chinese consumers - 71.1 percent of all respondents said they purchased Korean beauty products before.

Food and beverages followed with 61.9 percent, fashion with 57.1 percent and electronics with 47.8 percent.

KITA’s report suggested that Korean companies seeking to enter China should be thoroughly prepared for local administrative procedures.

“Even after relations improve, China is expected to reverse its working method to prioritize laws and principles rather than relying on personal relations,” the report said. “Korean companies should be careful in keeping up with regulation and system changes there.”

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