A large number of fake South Korean cosmetic products is circulating in Chinese-speaking countries.
According to news outlets in Hong Kong, including Wenweipo, on January 2, Hong Kong Customs officers found 5,200 South Korean, Japanese and European knock-off cosmetics worth HK$670,000 (US$85,742 or 91.19 million won) for two days from December 20.
The fakes were mostly South Korean make-up and skincare products such as Amorepacific’s Sulwhasoo, Innisfree and Laneige. France’s Chanel counterfeit perfumes and Bioderma bogus products were also found.
Hong Kong Customs cracked down on fake cosmetic products two times in 2017. They seized 755 knock-off cosmetics with an estimated market value of about HK$100,000 (US$12,794 or 13.65 million won at the end of September last year. After the first seizure, 120 investigators were called in to an extensive raid and found counterfeit cosmetics storage facilities last month.
Most of counterfeit cosmetics were South Korean brands due to a higher level of Chinese consumer preferences. According to local media outlet “CBO,” the number of South Korean fake products increased at the same time when the purchases of South Korean cosmetics by Chinese tourists exploded. In particular, some Chinese who don’t understand the Korean language bought fake products that they believed to be genuine products during their visits to South Korea.
A South Korean cosmetics importer, who requested anonymity, said, “South Korean cosmetic products have more complicated distribution channels than other imported ones and fake products are found in the process. It is not surprising that fake products are in circulation in Hong Kong.”
There is nothing new about counterfeit cosmetics being circulated in Chinese-speaking countries. However, it is impossible for the South Korean cosmetics industry to take legal action or ban the sale of knock-offs on location. A large criminal syndicate distribute fake cosmetics in secrecy, evading the law. In fact, 12 people were arrested after Hong Kong Customs carried out the crackdown for months.
According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on January 1, the amount of South Korean cosmetics exports came to US$4.97 billion (5.32 trillion won) last year, up 18.5 percent from US$4.19 billion (4.46 trillion won) at the previous year. There were concerns that China’s retaliatory measures over the THAAD issue would drag down exports to China but exports continued to grow because of Hallyu like drama and K-pop.