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Chinese driving Korean online industry

Sales of South Korea’s online shopping malls rose dramatically in recent months helped by the growing number of Chinese customers.

Data released this week shows the Korean online industry growth is happening amid China’s retaliation against South Korea over Seoul’s plans to deploy an advanced US missile defense system on its soil.

WeMakePrice, a major online shopping mall, said its sales on Alibaba Group’s Tmall rose 100 per cent in January compared with the same period last year. The comparable figure was 50 per cent for February.

“We don’t expect any drastic decline in the sales in Tmall, one of the biggest online shopping sites in China, unless Chinese consumers stage a boycott of South Korean products,” a WeMakePrice official said.

GMarket, another online shopping mall, said its sales to Chinese consumers surged 18 per cent in 2016 from a year earlier, and the trend is similar for the first two months of this year.

A possible decline in the number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea, however, may adversely affect the South Korea online industry as many Chinese tourists place orders at South Korean duty-free shops online before picking up goods in person while touring South Korea, industry sources said.

China has been retaliating against Seoul’s decision reached in July to have the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system deployed on South Korean soil later this year. South Korea says the missile system will not target China but only counter threats from North Korea.

In the latest retaliation, Chinese travel agencies suspended sales of tour packages to South Korea last week.

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