SEJONG, Jan. 25 (Korea Bizwire) — Overseas direct purchases made by South Koreans reached an all-time annual high of US$1.54 billion in 2014, as consumers sought better bargains and a wider choice of products, the customs service said Friday.
The total represents a 39 percent increase compared to $1.04 billion brought in from abroad in 2013, the Korea Customs Service (KCS) said. It said the total number of items purchased last year reached 15,530 from 11,159 in 2013.
Most direct purchases are made on overseas online shopping malls and market places, such as Amazon.com.
The KCS said that while there was still double-digit growth, the number of goods brought into the country dipped from the 57 percent surge tallied in 2011, when total direct purchases reached 5,602. For 2012 and 2013, growth as measured in items, rose 42 percent and 40 percent, respectively.
The office said products brought in from the United States made up 73.5 percent of the total, those from China 10.9 percent, and those from Germany and Hong Kong 5.4 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.
“Roughly 99 percent of all foreign direct purchases were made in eight countries,” the customs service said. The other four are Japan, Britain, France and New Zealand.
It, however, said that while direct purchases were made from just 19 countries in 2010, this ballooned to 38 as of last year. Only countries where more than 100 purchases were made have been counted.
By amount, 37 percent of all purchases exceed $50 but stayed under $100, with $50 or less accounting for 25 percent. Just 8 percent of all purchases were for products that cost between $150 to $200.
“The numbers show most purchases are small scale, although there was a sharp increase in products that cost more than $1,000,” it said.
Of all products brought into the country, 96 percent were not taxed last year.
By item, 19 percent of direct purchases were clothing, followed by health food, shoes and cosmetics.
The KCS said the increase in direct purchases could fuel competition in the country’s retail sector and trigger a move by companies to improve efficiency and services for local consumers.