2017-03-22 17:58
Chinese cosmetics brand faces backlash in Korea
By Park Jae-hyuk

OMM, a Chinese cosmetics brand which opened a flagship store in Seoul’s Myeong-dong shopping district in January, faces a backlash from Korean consumers amid mounting tensions between the two countries over a U.S. anti-missile defense system, according to industry officials, Wednesday.

Established by Quanjian Cosmetics Korea, a local subsidiary of the China-based cosmetics and health supplements manufacturer Quanjian Group, the flagship store sells cosmetics made by Kolmar Korea, a local original design manufacturer.

After signing a supply agreement with Kolmar in November 2015, Quanjian set up the Korean subsidiary last July, saying it wants to check whether its brand can succeed in the center of the Asian beauty market.

Considering the awkward Korean-language text written on its official website and leaflets, however, OMM has been suspected of merely taking advantage of the reputation of Korean cosmetics in order to sell its products in the Chinese market, which is more lucrative than Korea’s. In other words, critics say they want to promote that “we compete in the Korean market.”

Moreover, some of the products sell at 1.6 million won ($1,400), which is unusual for Korean cosmetics firms that rarely price products above 800,000 won.

Because overpriced cosmetics hardly survive in the saturated domestic market, industry officials said the pricy products seem unlikely to target Korean consumers.

Irritated by Beijing’s economic retaliation against Korean businesses over the deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery here, Korean consumers did not give a warm welcome to OMM, beyond being reluctant to buy the products at the unusually high prices.

But a Quanjian Cosmetics Korea official dismissed the suspicions, claiming OMM is a Korean brand selling Korea-made cosmetics. The official said the company has concern about Korean consumers who regard OMM as a made-in-China brand.

“Quanjian Group is merely one of our major shareholders,” she said. “We will open additional stores in Korea and will also update our official website as soon as possible.”

Lately, the number of Chinese tourists in the Myeong-dong district has noticeably declined after the Chinese government’s ban on the country's tour agencies from offering group tours to Korea went into effect.