Chinese firms steal show at S. Korea's largest smart fair

Park Sae-jin Reporter Posted : 2017-08-14 15:37 Updated : 2017-08-14 15:37
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[Photo & video by Park Sae-jin ]

In the heart of South Korea's most globalized shopping district frequented by rich consumers, Chinese products are stealing the show at an annual trade fair for smart devices and accessories, a scene that was unthinkable last year.

Some booths for Chinese firms in COEX, a leading conference and exhibition complex in Seoul's southern finance and culture hub, were crowded with visitors on August 11, the second day of the three-day exhibition, "KITAS 2017".

[Photo & video by Park Sae-jin ]

Standing in long lines to participate in events for try-on or free gifts, the visitors were eager to get their hands on new products. Drones, the favorite of many and previous trade shows, were not so popular there because many fixed their eyes downwards, gazing into the touch screens of smart devices and reading spec sheets on the back of earphones and speakers.

This year, personal audio systems gained attention. Dozens of visitors were seen carefully testing new headphones and speakers, sometimes consulting with booth operators for an advice or bargaining for a special discount.

[Photo & video by Park Sae-jin ]

QCY, a Chinese wireless audio company, was outstanding among audio companies, attracting the largest number of visitors with its comparably cheap but quality earphones.

"We have seen an explosive increase in customers' interest in our products lately. Our products are reasonably priced and their quality, in general, is good enough to satisfy the picky South Korean consumers," said Lee Min-ki, CEO of YL International Inc., the sole distributor of QCY products in South Korea.

[Photo & video by Park Sae-jin ]

QCY, established in 2003 as an audio device manufacturer, has narrowed its product lineup into wireless audio devices such as speakers, headphones and earphones. Now, its products are the all-time best-seller in global online shopping malls like Amazon and Alibaba.

Rather than entering the high-end market targeting audio enthusiasts who favor products from global firms such as Samsung and JVC, the Chinese company chose to focus on a much bigger market for ordinary consumers.

QCY is known for competitive prices and fair quality. "For decades, global consumers have been occupied with a perception that Chinese products are of poor quality and cheap, but QCY broke the prejudice," said Lee.

"Now, the global trend has moved into the South Korean audio market, attracting smart consumers."

[Photo & video by Park Sae-jin ]

The booth for Xiaomi, a Chinese electronics giant often dubbed "China's Apple", was also busy with a long line of visitors waiting for a glimpse of various popular products ranging from Bluetooth speakers and air purifiers to rice cookers.

"I've heard of Xiaomi products before, but this is the first time I've actually seen and touched them. I think they are sturdy and look very pretty," said Lee Sun-mi, a Seoul Women's University student. "Next time when I have to buy a rice cooker, that will be Xiaomi."

[Photo & video by Park Sae-jin ]

Buoyed by a relatively favorable response from South Korean consumers, the world's fifth-largest smartphone maker does not get cold feet in competition with two invincible heavyweights, Samsung and LG, on their home turf.

"Consumers say they like Xiaomi products because of affordable prices as well as simple and pretty designs," a Xiaomi booth operator told Aju News on condition of anonymity. "I think Xiaomi home appliances are very competitive in South Korea and they are popular especially among young people."

In South Korea, which is often known as the test bed for global firms, he said Xiaomi would adopt an aggressive strategy through strong localization and the early establishment of customer service and repair centers. "For South Korean consumers who care greatly about consumer services, we will meet their standards thoroughly."