Chinese less willing to buy South Korean goods

The attractiveness of South Korean products in China has declined sharply, a new survey has found, with the proportion of Chinese consumers that have bought Korean products in the past five years declining by more than 30% over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey, which was conducted in 10 major cities by the Korean International Trade Association (KITA), said that reduced people-to-people exchanges between the two countries and changes in Chinese consumer behavior were the reasons behind the decline. Chinese consumption patterns have changed in the past three years as a result of restrictions on overseas tourism and lower import volumes due to supply disruptions during the pandemic. More than 30% of those who said they had not bought Korean products cited South Korea’s national image as the reason behind their decision. Positive views on Korean products decreased from 59.5% in 2020 to 54.5% this year, whereas negative perceptions rose from 3.4% to 10%. The recent deterioration in relations between South Korea and China seems to have affected product sales, as a country’s national image has a sizable impact on consumers’ decisions.

“The relationship between Korea and China must be improved to increase sales of consumer goods in China, and the expansion of Korean culture in China is expected to have a positive effect on sales of consumer goods,” the report said. In 2020, 78.7% of Chinese said they had bought products from South Korea in the past five years, compared to 43.1% in January this year, according to the survey. Just over 58% of respondents said they would buy Chinese products over South Korean products, which was a decrease from 80.3% in 2020. In contrast, there was an increase of more than 10% among respondents who said they would buy European and American products over Korean products. Respondents in their 20s and 30s showed the most pronounced drop in intentions to buy South Korean products, with the proportion of those spending money on Korean goods halving in the past three years.

In 2020, 83.3% of respondents in their 20s said they had bought South Korean products in the past five years, compared to 41.2% in 2023. The figures for those in their 30s were nearly similar – 84.8% in 2020 and 40.4% in 2023. In contrast, respondents in their 50s showed a more moderate decrease of around 20% over the same period. The change in attitude was most pronounced in Shanghai and Beijing, where more than 80% of respondents had bought Korean goods in 2020, but only around 40% in both cities did so in 2023.

The survey was conducted by KITA’s Shanghai office between December 2022 and January, during which 1,000 respondents from cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Chengdu were asked various questions about their consumption habits, the South China Morning Post reports.