Breathable mask sales shoot up as mercury climbs

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Breathable mask sales shoot up as mercury climbs

People line up at a Traders branch in Goyang, Gyeonggi, on June 6 to purchase masks. [YONHAP]

People line up at a Traders branch in Goyang, Gyeonggi, on June 6 to purchase masks. [YONHAP]

Sales of thin masks have surged over the past week as people look for more breathable options as the temperature rises.

As the weather gets warmer, an increasing number of people are moving away from the government-recommended Korea Filter masks, instead opting for thinner masks that help the wearer to stay cool.
Last Friday saw the launch of the new government-approved Korea Filter Anti-Droplet (KF-AD) masks, similar to conventional surgical masks, but designed specifically to provide higher levels of resistance to airborne liquids. Mask manufacturer Welkeeps sold out of KF-AD masks it had available online on Monday.
Each mask, approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, costs 500 won ($0.41). Only 30 masks can be purchased at once.

Welkeeps subsidiary PnTD, Finetek, KM and Geonyoung Cleantech earned ministry approval for the KF-AD masks last week. The ministry decided to allow private companies to distribute the masks instead of including them in existing mask rationing policies.

Display manufacturer Finetek started selling the KF-AD masks on Friday. By Monday, its website was down due to excessive traffic. KM, which normally produces PVC gloves and polyester wipers, said it doesn’t yet have a specific plan on when to distribute the masks. Mask manufacturer Geonyoung Cleantech on its website posted a notice warning customers that mask supply could "be a little late."

KF-AD masks have 95 percent bacterial filtration efficiency, a measurement of a material’s resistance to penetration by bacteria, according to Welkeeps.  
Welkeeps’ online mall shows that the ministry-approved KF-AD anti-droplet masks are sold out on Monday. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Welkeeps’ online mall shows that the ministry-approved KF-AD anti-droplet masks are sold out on Monday. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Welkeeps began distributing the masks on Friday. The website crashed due to excessive traffic.
“I had to keep refreshing the page due to continuous server errors,” said one comment on Welkeeps' online mall Saturday. “I couldn’t work for three hours as I tried to purchase the masks.”
With KF-AD masks still in short supply, consumers looked for other breathable alternatives to the thick Korea Filter masks.
Emart’s big box chain store Traders said it sold all 900 boxes of disposable masks sent to each of its 18 branches over the weekend.  
A single mask was sold at 320 won.
Its mask sales between June 6 and June 7 surged 686.3 percent compared to the previous weekend.  
Traders has 20 million masks in stock, due to be distributed throughout this month.
Before releasing the 900 boxes on Saturday, Traders was selling around 10,000 masks per day at each branch. Demand was so high that people had to wait in line and take a number to get a turn to purchase the masks, according to Traders.
“I waited an hour to buy masks [at Traders],” said one comment on Naver on Saturday. “There were disputes among people who weren’t able to get a number [to buy the masks], while others left feeling angry.”
Convenience stores saw dental masks sales surge over the weekend.
GS Retail’s GS25 saw sales of thin dental masks rise 275.9 percent from June 1 through June 7 compared to the first week of the previous month. The ministry-approved Korea Filter masks saw a smaller 14.1 percent increase in sales during the same period.
GS25 said it plans to release five different types of so-called cool masks this week.
Cool masks are made of the material used in sun-protection sleeves. Sun-protection sleeves are fabric sleeves that cover the arm from the wrist to above the elbow and are popular among people working or exercising outside during the summer. They are intended to keep arms cool.

CU on Monday said sales of dental masks rose 250.6 percent during the same period as GS25. 7-Eleven saw a larger sales jump of Korea Filter masks, at 64.8 percent, during the same period, while dental mask sales inched up 33.7 percent.
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