Korean cosmetics are selling like hot cakes in Japan despite the weak yen, which makes imports more expensive.

According to the Korea International Trade Association, Korea exported 66.5 billion yen worth of cosmetics to Japan in the first 10 months of this year, surpassing French makeup products to rank No. 1. Next came French, U.S. and Chinese cosmetics.

Top Korean brand Amore Pacific closed down high-end stores in Japan in 2014 because sales were failing, but Korean TV dramas and pop music became immensely popular in Japan during the coronavirus pandemic thanks to Netflix and sparked a craze for other Korean products.

Fourteen Korean cosmetics brands ranked among the top 20 bestselling makeup products on Tuesday on Japanese online shopping platform Qoo10, which has 20 million users.






An Innisfree cosmetics shop in Yokohama, Japan is crowded in this undated photo.

Small and mid-sized brands like Bonajour and VT Cosmetics performed particularly well, accounting for 12 out of the 14 Korean brands. Health and beauty chain CJ Olive Young’s sales of small and mid-sized Korean cosmetics makers on Rakuten and Qoo10 surged 132 percent on-year.

A CJ Olive Young staffer said, “Cosmetics from small and mid-sized Korean companies are touted as being good quality and affordable on Japanese online communities.”

Nature Republic, which had been losing money, opened a Japanese branch in 2021 and shifted to a surplus in the third quarter of this year.

Mid-sized player Cosmax set up a Japanese subsidiary this year to supply products faster to young consumers there after online sales surged since the pandemic started. The company sells products like BB Cream and Cushion from natural and herbal ingredients and saw exports to Japan post double-digit growth over the last three years.

Amore Pacific started selling its Laneige line on Japanese online platform @cosme and a store in Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district. Innisfree opened its second store in Harajuku last year and also began selling in retail chains like Loft.

LG Household and Health Care forayed into the Japanese market two years ago and now supplies its CNP line of products to 14,000 Loft and Tokyu Hands shops.

A KITA staffer said, “Japanese cosmetics brands like Shiseido and SK-II are world-famous and there is traditionally a strong preference for local brands, which made the market difficult to penetrate. That’s why it is significant that Korean cosmetics became the top import this year.”

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