Chinese snap up products featured in Korea's fairy-tale soap

Posted at 03/31/2014 2:16 PM | Updated as of 03/31/2014 5:22 PM

SEOUL - Seoul's landmark N Seoul Tower welcomes 500 Chinese tourists a day. But they don't all come for the panoramic views.

Ma Rong Rong and her friends from Shanghai want to re-enact a scene from the Korean soap opera 'My Love from the Star'.

"We really enjoyed the show. So, we came here to hang our locks just like the heroes," she said.

The Korean soap, a romantic comedy about an actress and her alien boyfriend, is a sensation in China. And after the sightseeing is over, Chinese tourists rush to buy up the products it features.

At the Amorepacific cosmetics store, Chinese customers are literally sweeping a skin toner product off its shelves, into their shopping carts.

"I came here especially to buy this skin toner after watching 'My Love from the Star'. I've used it already and I like it. I bought ten bottles today," Chen Xiao-chen, a tourist from Harbin, said.

"We've seen more Chinese customers since the drama aired. But we've had to limit our sales to five bottles per person, because we were afraid we'd go out of stock. Chinese customers were taking ten to 20 bottles each," Aritaum store manager Park Hye-lim said.

"My Love from the Star" might be all about fairy-tale romance, but the returns it's generating for Korean companies like Amorepacific are very real.

Instant noodles have also be featured in the show, and food conglomerate Nongshim says that helped it post record monthly sales in China for the first two months of 2014.

Shares in both Amorepacific and Nongshim have blown past the benchmark index this year.

Analyst Julien Lapka says global companies could take some lessons from Korea's marketing successes with trendy Chinese consumers.

"You have, you know, three big Korean production houses that drive the industry. And if you are a Western brand then you should be doing all that you can to start having those relationships with some of the big production houses, so that as they are looking for brands to partner with, that you can start having those conversations with them," Lapka said.

Product placement can be tricky, but judging from the reaction of some Chinese shoppers, Korean firms have it down to a fine art.

The Korean media and its celebrities may be a new shortcut to what will soon be the world's biggest consumer market.