South Korea is APAC’s third largest retail market and will be worth an estimated GBP 364bn by 2018. Most of the country’s population of 50m is concentrated in the Seoul capital region. South Korea also has the seventh largest e-commerce market in the APAC region, worth some GBP 25bn in 2015. Rising disposable income, the entry of international retail chains, liberal retail policies, and a strong e-commerce infrastructure are contributing to the growth of the retail industry in South Korea.

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

  • British fashion, accessory, confectionary, and beauty product brands are generally considered high-end and enjoy a strong reputation among Korean consumers

  • Major retailers such as Lotte, Shinsegae, CJ and GS Group are all expanding their organic and green goods selections as eco-friendly brands are attracting more attention from consumers

  • High-end brands in the living, sports, leisure, infant and giftware markets are gaining popularity as discretionary consumer spending increases, resulting in greater individualism, self-expression and interest in international and luxury brands

Case Study: Leading Casualwear Brand

The Brief

A leading casual-wear clothing  brand appointed the BCCK to conduct a partner search of potential partners in the market. The company had an existing partner in Korea, but had grown unsatisified with the partner’s penetration of its brand into the country’s market.

The Approach

The BCCK identified 20 potential partners and stakeholders in the Korean market and arranged seven 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 them 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 retail space include Associated British Foods, CODE Beautiful and Johnstons of ElginLinkedIn



“We received excellent support from the BCCK on our recent trip to Seoul, which enabled us to work efficiently and maximise our available time. We came away from the trip with a clear understanding of the Korean market, the opportunity and next steps.”

– Hugh Wahla, CEO, The Conran Shop

Some Companies Supported

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