We do find visiting each of our markets fascinating - and completely unpredictable in terms of what customers like, how they live and consumer trends. High on the list of topics discussed during our latest visit to Korea* were regulatory trends and recent scandals that have rocked the country. Koreans are now very untrusting of their regulatory bodies and large companies, after numerous breaches of trust:
- The most recent involved a recall of the vast majority of eggs in Korea after high levels of the pesticide fipronil were found in many of them including those certified as eco-friendly. They are in the process of destroying all the contaminated eggs - so eggs are not available in most retail outlets or restaurants.
- Another recent product recall involved toxic glues in a brand of sanity napkins, causing undesirable symptoms (menstrual pain and health issues) in women who used them and resulted in a class action against the company.
- A scandal they still talk about which occurred in 2011 involving a humidifier cleaner killing around 100 people due to the preservative they call MIT/CMIT (methylisothiazolinone and chloromethylisothiazolinone). The company involved took 5 years to offer an apology. These preservatives now strike fear in Koreans and have been banned in many products. Despite the ban they were found to be in a range of common toothpaste products late last year.
- Bribery involving a global pharmaceutical company - fined over $50m and products suspended for giving kickbacks to doctors.
* We take the lead of the locals we meet in South Korea, calling the area simply Korea - they never add the 'South'.
Image shown of the new library in the Starfield COEX shopping mall