Korea is the 10th largest beauty market in the world, representing nearly 2.9% of the global market. In 2015, the size of the Korean beauty market was estimated to be approximately GBP 5.9bn; the total local production and total exports increased 11.3% and 61.7%, respectively, from the previous year. The market has had an annual growth rate of 6.7% for the last five years.

Meanwhile, total imports of beauty products in 2015 increased 3.8% from the previous year, to reach GBP 780m. On a country by country basis, the U.S. is the largest import country, followed by France (GBP 239m) and Japan (GBP 99m).

Impact of the EU-Korea FTA

Implemented in July 2011, the EU-Korea FTA will lead to the removal of 97% of all tariffs for UK exporters. The FTA contains provisions on services, public procurement, intellectual property (IP) and sustainable development as well as the liberalization of goods tariffs. The FTA has ushered in enhanced protection for IP rights and improved copyright regulations.

Potential Opportunities

  • The demand for natural and organic skincare products, in particular, is growing rapidly;
  • The demand for cushion foundation, which is a combination of sunscreen, make-up base, and foundation in the form of a sponge cushion, is expected to grow;
  • Korean beauty brands are leading the beauty industry in Asia. Millions of consumers, especially Chinese, visit Korea with the primary purpose of purchasing beauty products. Foreign brands that establish a presence in Korea can use the brand awareness in Korea to build the brand elsewhere in Asia.

Case Study: Leading Luxury Cosmetics Brand

The Brief

A leading UK-based luxury cosmetics company appointed the BCCK to conduct a partner search of companies in the cosmetics retail market. The company was interested in identifying a local partner to help it re-enter and penetrate the Korean market successfully given the importance of the market in Asia and globally for its brand.

The Approach

The BCCK identified 10 potential partners and stakeholders in the Korean market and arranged nine meetings with key decision makers. At the end of the project, the BCCK provided the company with a comprehensive visit and market report outlining key opportunities, trends in the market, and strategies for partnership discussions.

The Outcome

Through the meetings, the company identified two companies that it was interested in working with. Before and after the meetings, the BCCK provided advice and guidance about the best ways to approach the companies. The company asked the BCCK to continue to facilitate the communication between it and the two potential partners until a deal could be reached.

Sector Specialist

Inwha Lee


Inwha Lee is a Coordinator in the BCCK’s Trade Services team. Inwha holds two bachelor’s degrees from Korea University in international studies and political science/international relations. Prior to joining the Chamber, Inwha worked at the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) assisting Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects and was also part of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea. While at the BCCK, Inwha has worked with companies in a wide range of sectors from F&B to the creative industries. Her past clients in the beauty space include Molton BrownRodial, CyDen, and CODE BeautifulLinkedIn



“I was so grateful to the team in Seoul for helping me with my market visit to Korea. We met some amazing retailers and distributors that were perfect for my brand and the team really took the time to understand our niche brand and vision. The BCCK is a great team and we will work with them again. My advice: Don’t struggle with a market visit without speaking to the BCCK team first!”

– Sarah Cross, Creator, CODE Beautiful

Some Companies Supported

For More Information

Download our one-page flyer regarding South Korea’s Beauty market here.

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