High-end Chinese home appliances gain traction in Korea

2024.02.06 14:48:01 | 2024.02.06 18:03:39

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Chinese exporters of home appliances are making a strong push to market their top-tier products in South Korea.

According to the Korea Customs Service on Monday, Korea reported a trade deficit of 681.5 billion won ($510 million) in the imports and exports of vacuum cleaners in 2023, with the trade balance of vacuum cleaners in the red for nine consecutive years since 2015.

The trade deficit increased by more than 26 percent in 2023 compared to the previous year, largely due to a significant rise in imports of robot vacuum cleaners, and imports totaled 284.9 billion won, a 38 percent surge from the previous year.

China is the largest exporter of vacuum cleaners, representing 63 percent of all vacuum cleaners and a whopping 91 percent of robot vacuum cleaners imported in 2023. Chinese robot vacuum cleaner makers, including Beijing Roborock Technology Co., Dreame Technology, and Ecovacs Robotics, have gained traction in the Korean market, outpacing the sales of Korean robot vacuum cleaners.

Chinese brands are known for offering more advanced features.

For instance, the most popular Chinese robot vacuum cleaner, the Roborock S8 Pro Ultra, can mop as well as vacuum. In contrast, top Korean models by Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc., such as Samsung’s Bespoke Jet Bot AI and LG’s CodeZero R9, are limited to suction cleaning. The Roborock also boasts a longer usage time of three hours compared to the Korean brands’ one hour and thirty minutes.

Even department stores, which typically focused on high-end products, are adapting to consumer preferences by introducing Chinese robot vacuum cleaner brands. Lotte Department Store opened a Roborock store at its Incheon branch in November 2023 and plans more openings in other stores, including Dongtan, in the first half of 2024. Shinsegae Department Store also opened Roborock stores at locations including its Gyeonggi branch and Daejeon Shinsegae Art & Science.

High-end Chinese products are also gaining popularity in other home appliances categories. For example, TCL promotes large screens that are much more affordable than their Samsung and LG counterparts. TCL’s 85-inch 4K Mini LED TV, available on Coupang Inc. for around 2.55 million won with a Wow discount, competes with Korean screens of similar specifications, which are sold for about 3.8 million won.

Industry observers said that as China continues to enhance its technological edges in autonomous driving technology and artificial intelligence (AI), more Chinese-made products will likely gain traction in the premium market.

By Park Chang-young and Han Yubin

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