KOREA - The sweeping popularity of expensive winter jackets from foreign brands among students is becoming a social issue in South Korea.
The premium padded jumpers made by foreign apparel companies like Canada Goose and Moncler usually cost more than 1 to 2 million won (S$1,200 to S$2,400). Despite their price tags, the jackets became a huge hit among Korean students this year.
The jackets were initially imported in limited quantities for high-income consumers in Gangnam and other posh areas but are now being sold to other groups such as office workers and students.
The country's leading department stores, including Hyundai, Lotte, Shinsegae and Galleria, are scrambling to secure an inventory of high-priced, high-profit jackets from abroad.
An expert on consumer trends said that Korean students' low self-esteem is reflected in the abnormal popularity of foreign padded jackets.
"The students tend to have a strong desire for recognition but their self-image is not established yet. They want to be recognised by buying and wearing the luxury clothes," said Lee Eun-hee, a professor of consumer studies at Inha University.
Cha Eun-jung, a teacher at Seongan High School in Ansan, said the students' desire for affirmation is one of the major factors behind the lavish consumption.
"Some of them just want to show off that they are able to afford it, some others find satisfaction in the clothes they are wearing," Cha said,
She added that her students wearing the luxury items say they enjoy the envious glances of their friends.
In addition, the prices of winter jackets are much higher in Korea than in the countries where they are originally produced.
For example, Moncler's short jumper for woman costs 650 euro (943,000 won) in Italy but costs 1.5 million won in Korea.
Some Korean consumers are expressing dissatisfaction about the wide price gap, even considering the additional costs for imported goods including tax and delivery charges.
Meanwhile, some Korean firms are rushing to produce similar winter jackets at lower prices to grab a share in the fast-growing market.