Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - K-pop a boon for cosmetics shops

K-pop a boon for cosmetics shops

Popular Korean cosmetics such as whitening creams and body lotions are stocked at The Face Shop in Phnom Penh. Scott Howes
Popular Korean cosmetics such as whitening creams and body lotions are stocked at The Face Shop in Phnom Penh. Scott Howes

K-pop a boon for cosmetics shops

Kim Hyun-joong is looking at you. From a poster outside of a hair salon, from a shop window, in a TV commercial or on local social media sites, the South Korean singer and actor decorates various advertisements in Phnom Penh.

But it isn’t just about his music – it’s about a popular lifestyle and the art of making business out of it. Hyun-joong serves as a figurehead for shops that are swimming with the “Hallyu”, or “Korean Wave”: the popularity of the country’s culture that is spreading all over Asia.

Boosted by the attractiveness of Hallyu, South Korean-made cosmetics products – hair, skin and face care – have become top-sellers on the continent, and it seems like the Cambodian market is the next to be conquered.

“Cambodia is presently being hit by the Korean Wave, which has been very favourable for our beauty products to enter the market,” says Row Sopheavy, marketing manager of The Face Shop Cambodia on Sihanouk Boulevard.

“People here are obsessed with the Korean dramas and K-pop. Many of them yearn for the lifestyle of the popular stars, including intensive skincare and make-up every day.”

Data by the Korea Pharmaceutical Traders Association shows that exports of Korean-made cosmetics accounted for $1.067 billion in 2012, up 30.3 per cent from a year earlier.

In the first quarter of this year, Cambodia imported cosmetics products worth $9.9 million, an increase of 130 per cent compared with the same period last year, data by the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce show

Seoul-based The Face Shop opened their first store in City Mall in August 2010. Now they have four locations in Phnom Penh, and one in Battambang that opened earlier this year, making them the largest South Korean cosmetics brand in Cambodia.

In total, they count more than 2,100 stores in 23 countries.
It’s not uncommon to see images of Hyun-joong and fellow stars portrayed as role models of beauty in Phnom Penh and elsewhere in Asia, where advertisements with singers and TV shows glamorise the life of a South Korean idol.

Sopheavy says the culture is penetrating Cambodia’s society, and the so-called ‘beautiful determines everything’ perception of South Koreans has crept into the minds of locals, especially young women. This, she says, opens the door for a cosmetics coup.

Following the same marketing formula as The Face Shop, South Korean-owned Nature Republic also has a growing overseas presence, with one store in Phnom Penh’s night market and products on shelves in the city’s department stores and malls. The shops are joined by three branches of the South Korea chain Missha, and one Tony Moly shop.

Cambodia’s beauty business is gradually growing as incomes are rising and the country’s middle-class increases.

On a recent afternoon, Chan Naysim, a 20-year-old university student in the Sihanouk Boulevard branch of The Face shop, uses testers of moisturisers and toners displayed in the skincare section. She said she’s attracted by the natural and organic formula of the products.

“I love their Mango Seed Facial butter. I love the smell and I feel like my skin is getting smoother.”

While the price for skincare and cleansing products are high for students (they range from $8 to $15 a bottle), she says she can stretch one product to last her for than a month Sim Sovanratana, director of EL Skin & Wellness Center in Phnom Penh, said Cambodians are willing to pay more for beauty care and make-up styling, assured by the fancy packaging and standout images of South Korean brands.

Sopheavy, however, says she doesn’t want to talk up Hallyu too much, in case customers who haven’t been lured into the craze think that’s all there is to buy.

“The Korean wave is only a supportive factor for our development,” she said. “We offer healthy and [high] quality products at a reasonable price range that suits the Asian skin type, which is our main selling point.”
But the Korean Wave must count for something – she said she will opening five more branches by the end of 2014.

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Mother, daughter killed in hotel fire

    The bodies of a mother and daughter were found locked in an embrace after they were killed in a hotel fire in Phnom Penh at around 3:30am on Wednesday at the Phkar Chhouk Tep 2 Hotel and Restaurant in Phsar Doeum Kor commune, in the capital’

  • EBA withdrawal a destruction of EU achievements, PM says

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the EU’s possible suspension of its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement amounted to a destruction of its achievements in the Kingdom and the demise of the opposition group. Hun Sen made the remarks while addressing more than 6,700 students during

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • US told to refrain from interfering in Sokha case

    Senior Cambodian officials said on Thursday that the US can monitor Kem Sokha’s trial as it wishes but would not be allowed to interfere in court procedures. The point was made in response to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments on Wednesday

  • Europe expected to consider EBA efforts, impact

    The government said it expects the European Commission to consider its efforts to comply with the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) regulations and the impact on one million workers should access to the agreement be suspended in February. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation