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Economy

South Korean campaign aims to get people shopping

During last year's sales campaign, people flocked to retailers such as E-Mart supermarket to take advantage of discounts.

SEOUL -- For the second year running, the South Korean government has launched an autumn retail discount campaign to boost the country's sagging personal consumption.

The South Korean version of Black Friday involves some 170 companies including major operators of department stores and supermarkets across the country, as well as key manufacturers of consumer electronics, cars, cosmetics and other products. Retail prices will be sharply discounted during the campaign which runs through Oct. 9.

Although the government believes the fall sales push will stimulate consumer spending, some analysts warn demand will fizzle out after Black Friday.

The sale will "build momentum to activate consumer sentiment at a time when the private sector is low on energy," said Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Joo Hyung-hwan at a meeting of the campaign organizing committee in Seoul on Sept. 21.

In addition to the discounts available to shoppers from Sept. 29 through Oct. 9, the "Korea Sale Festa" will offer discounts and gifts to overseas visitors through October. The program will also put on 55 events across the country featuring South Korean TV and movie content.

Participants in the campaign include supermarket operator E-mart, Lotte Department Store, Hyundai Department Store and other big retailers, as well as manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Hyundai Motor, cosmetics maker AmorePacific Group and LG Household & Health Care.

Opening wallets

The first South Korean Black Friday was held in early October last year, involving 92 companies and 34,000 stores. During the period, sales at major department stores jumped 25% from a year earlier.

The campaign was aimed at shoring up consumption weighed down by an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome. Because the campaign boosted consumer spending more than expected, the government widened its scope this year, with participation by manufacturers and various other companies, in addition to retailers.

Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are selling items at discounts of up to 40-53% at directly owned stores during this year's campaign. Smartphones, refrigerators and other products are getting big discounts at Samsung stores, while LG is slashing prices for such products as 65-inch organic electroluminescence TVs.

Hyundai Motor is cutting prices by 5-10% on 5,000 of its cars, including popular models such as the Grandeur and Santa Fe.

Other participants include the Coupang e-commerce website and restaurant chain CJ group.

The 2016 Black Friday -- which takes its name from the Friday following Thanksgiving in the U.S. -- involves about 170 companies and 48,000 stores. The government expects the campaign to give a greater boost to consumer spending this year than last.

But some analysts warn consumption will shrink once the campaign ends.

South Korea's gross domestic product grew faster in the October-December period last year, due in part to the sales campaign and cuts in consumption taxes on cars. In the January-March quarter of this year, however, consumption retreated.

It is unclear whether the sales push will prop up spending enough to make up for falls in exports due to China's economic slowdown, and a weaker job market.

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