South Korea flag South Korea: Buying and Selling

Advertising and marketing in South Korea

Marketing opportunities

Consumer Profile
South Korea's the population is ageing very quickly, the median age is 44.8 years old. While only 14.8% of the population is under 18 years old, 67.8% is between 18 and 64 years old and 17.5% is above 65 years old (Data Reportal, 2022). The population is growing at a rate of 0.1%, according to the latest data provided by the World Bank. Households have an average of 2.4 people in 2021 (Kostat). 27% of households live alone, 48% of households are composed of 2 or 3 people, 24% of households of 4 or 5 people and only 1.5% of households have more than 6 members (UN, latest data available). The gender ratio is 1 man to 1 woman with 81.5% of the population living in urban areas (Data Reportal, 2022). The population is concentrated in the non-mountainous lowlands: the Gyeonggi province around Seoul is the most populated while the Gangwon province is the least dense. The main cities are Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejon, and Gwangju. The level of education is very high. In Korea, 89% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, higher than the OECD average of 79% (OECD, 2020). Moreover, the population with tertiary education aged 25-34 year olds is nearly 70% in 2020, far above the OECD average (45%). The most active occupations in the labour force concern administration and accounting, then salespeople with kitchen and restaurant staff. Then come administrators, office workers and farmers.
Purchasing Power
The GDP per capita PPP is $ 45,225.8 in 2020 (World Bank). In Korea, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 24,590 a year, lower than the OECD average of USD 30,490 a year (OECD, 2020). A significant gap exists between the richest and the poorest: 20% of the population earns more than five times more than the lower 20%. In addition, the average salary in Seoul is among the highest in Asia, currently at KRW 2.9 million, or around USD 2,275 (Statista). In terms of employment, 66% of people aged 15 to 64 in Korea have a paid job, which is the same level as the OECD employment average. The Gini index on income inequality is estimated at 0.34 and stable, but gender inequality is among the highest among OECD countries. Some 75% of men are in paid work, compared with 57% of women. The gender pay gap in Korea is the highest among OECD countries at 31.5% in 2020, contributing to making working life for women in Korea unappealing.
Consumer Behaviour
South Korea is a consumer society. Purchases not only serve the primary needs but also for image and status reasons. The economic slowdown and the high level of debt have pushed some Koreans to pay attention to their spending, even if luxury goods are still trendy. Products attracting the most consumers are successful brands where detailing is visible. Consumption is used to make a statement. In general, purchases are made in department stores, shopping centres but also in new types of stores (example: food retailers).

Korean consumers are not loyal to brands, they tend to be tech-savvy and concerned with brand names. Koreans are very connected. As a matter of fact, more than 98% of South Korean households access internet daily and over 85% of the Korean population owns a smartphone (Data Reportal, 2022). Online shopping is very democratised. Around 90% of the nation’s population use e-commerce platforms, and this is expected to rise to 94.4% in 2023. The use of the internet also makes it possible to search for information on a product before picking it up in a store. Social networks are used to explore, review products and buy. Influencers and testers of known products are influential in consumer decision making. Consumers are increasingly less attracted to domestic products while purchases of foreign products are growing.

South Koreans tend to change their consumption behaviour.  Koreans are increasingly looking for leisure free time. Consumption friendly to the environment is not yet fully widespread, even if it developing. A new group of consumers has emerged, insisting on “green labels” and hunting for eco-friendly, or organic and natural alternatives. Concerns for the environment are a little stronger among young people. There is a second-hand market in South Korea that is developing, especially with flea markets and internet exchanges. The collaborative economy is present and growing in South Korea.
Consumers Associations
Korean Consumer Agency
Main Advertising Agencies
Cheil Worldwide

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Latest Update: July 2024