Spielwarenmesse: Toy Market South Korea: adults stand out as new toy consumers

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Toy Market South Korea: adults stand out as new toy consumers

from Euromonitor International

South Korea is experiencing prolonged economic stagnation and discretionary spending is overall in a negative trend. However, traditional toys and games is not directly affected by this. In addition to the growing portion of more expensive toys, the increased spending power per child is the source of continued positive growth. In addition to that a new group of South Korean consumers shows a strong purchasing power.

Traditional toys is a mature category and the target consumer group size is steadily declining due to the continued low birth rate. Therefore, the current pace of positive value growth in South Korea is a result of increased average unit prices as well as the expanded consumer group that includes young adults and young parents who have great interest in sophisticated toy products.

One of the major characteristics of traditional toys in 2015 was the accelerated preference of boys’ toys against girls’ toys or baby toys. As such, the categories with a high portion of boys’ toys were successful. Action figures and accessories as well as construction toys were the major growth engines, but ride-on vehicles and remote control toys also showed a strong performance in South Korea. As a result, the companies that focus on these categories were the main beneficiaries during the year.

The importance of the adult population for sales of traditional toys and games is growing rapidly. Although adults only accounted for 3% of total sales in 2015, growth from the previous year was impressive. As such, ‘kidult’ is a popular word used in the industry to refer to this upcoming target customer group with strong purchasing power.

Distribution of toys and games in South Korea by format
Distribution of toys and games in South Korea by format (Illustration: Spielwarenmesse; Source: Euromonitor International)

Toy marketing via YouTube

International brands continued to outperform their domestic counterparts in 2015. However, the strong popularity of local licensed toys from Sonokong Co Ltd helped to push the growth of local players.

YouTube is used for toy marketing. In Korea, children aged 6-7 and above are already exposed to media such as YouTube, whereas the 3-5 age group only watch television. The largest local player, Young Toys Inc opened its toy unboxing channel on YouTube to target the Children’s Day season in 2015. The company’s toy brands Tobot and Kongsuni etc. are introduced in this channel to drive brand awareness amongst the target consumer group.



Top 5 toy companies in South Korea; market shares in %
Top 5 toy companies in South Korea; market shares in % (Illustration: Spielwarenmesse; Source: Euromonitor International)

TV animations push licensing

It has become evident that value-added licensed toys can greatly impact the total market regardless of the external environment. In 2015, the local player Sonokong Co Ltd managed to introduce consecutive hit brands of Hello Carbot and Turning Mecard, which fall under the action figures and accessories category. Young Toys Inc is the other player that has enjoyed similar success with its brands Bayblade, Tobot etc. in previous years. The direction of the top two local players in South Korea will continue to be focused on developing new character toys that are based on TV animations and widely supported by younger children.

The popular animation character toys are mostly consumed by young children (under six years of age). It is difficult to observe such popular licenses for ages above this group. According to the latest press release from Toys R Us, in its newly-opened kidult zone within the Toys R Us online store, the company analysed that the LEGO was particularly successful with its licensed version of The Simpsons and Star Wars among its adult consumers.

Adult consumers in South Korea are increasingly taking up an important portion of construction toys’ sales as they want these products for their personal use. As the new terminology of ‘freddy’ suggests, fathers with young children tend to spend more time with their children and toys that interest both the father and child might gain additional share.


Analysts forecast that action figures and accessories and construction toys will continue to be the major categories for traditional toys and games and they will sustain their healthy growth. Action figures is largely made up of licensed character toys and new brands will be developed competitively by the leading players. Construction toys are loved by children and adults alike and have strong potential for further growth.

The toys targeted at boys and adults will be strong performers for the next few years. The popular TV animation series are mostly targeted at young boys and the relevant character toys are also purchased for boys. However, the recent popularity of such toys is also applied to girls and the industry sees less separation between boys’ and girls’ toys for action figures and accessories.

This is an extract from Euromonitor International’s Toys and Games in South Korea report. Find the complete report with current market research results here.

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Euromonitor International

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