On top of this, cosmetics exports in the first quarter of this year rose to $1.52bn, up 4.6% from the same period last year, said the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The growth rate of cosmetics was significantly higher than exports of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, which grew 14.9% and 14.1% respectively.
The international demand for cosmetics increased the country’s healthcare exports on the whole by 19.4% to $14.6bn.
K-wave exports soar
The ministry attributed the growth to Hallyu, or the Korean wave, sweeping the globe. This was evident in the surge of export in various countries.
Cosmetic exports rose 70.4% to the UK, 45.9% in France, 63.3% in Russia and 110.9% in Indonesia.
The ministry also attributed the improved market conditions to the price competitiveness of K-beauty products compared to European cosmetics.
China accounted for the largest slice of the pie, consuming $26.6bn of cosmetics. Hong Kong, the US and Japan followed China accounting for $13.2bn, $5.4bn and $3bn respectively.
The report also identified Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan as among the top 20 countries which show the highest growth rates. Exports to Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan shot up 152.7% and 149.8% in the first quarter of the year.
More jobs and increased R&D expense
The growth of the personal care industry also created more jobs domestically, reported the ministry.
This year, a total of 2,500 jobs were created, a 7.6% increase from the previous year. Comparatively, the medical equipment sector created 1,300 jobs, growing 2.8%.
Three personal care companies made the list of the county’s top 100 manufacturers, including LG Household & Healthcare, Amorepacific and Kolmar Korea, which placed 25th, 30th and 100th respectively.
Together, LG H&H and Amorepacific had achieved more than a trillion won of annual sales last year.
Personal care companies have also increased their research and development expenditure, said the ministry. According to the report, R&D expenses rose 29.7% to $219.5m.
A promising investment
Exports of the healthcare and cosmetics industry have been growing at a CAGR of 21% over the past five years, concluded the ministry.
It added that it planned to increase its investment in the health and cosmetics industry.
Under the ‘Bio Health Industry Innovation Strategy’, the government plans to invest over W4tr ($3.45bn) into R&D and establish a big data platform.
This, it said, would help the government to reach its goal of $50bn in exports annually and create 300,000 jobs in the process.