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Advertising Cosmetics in South Korea (Korea's Advertising Requirements and Non-compliance Examples)

  •   10 Jul 2019
  •    T.S. Li
  •  847
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    According to statistics, cosmetic importation in Korea increased by 36.4% year-on-year in the 5 years spanning from 2013 to 2017 (see Figure 1, based on data released on KOSIS[1]) and an increasing number of international cosmetic enterprises are entering the Korean market. By advertising, companies can improve visibility, increase demand and sales and support growth in the Korean market, however, compliance with advertising requirements and other regulatory requirements can be difficult and mistakes costly.

    (Figure.1 Amount of Imported Cosmetics to South Korea)

    On 22th Apr. 2019, a cosmetic manufacturer and retailer, filed an appeal against a 3-month suspension handed down by authorities for advertising their cosmetic product as having “antibacterial action”. The company also provided proof that their product contained silver which is antibacterial. Not surprisingly, Seoul Administrative Court dismissed the appeal and emphasized that the use of medicinal claims in cosmetic advertisements was strictly prohibited (Speconomy News[2])
    As in this case, enterprises may be punished by having their registration approval revoked or their business license suspended as stipulated within the Cosmetics Act[3]. So how can you comply with cosmetics advertising requirements in Korea?  In this article, we will analyze compliance issues on South Korea cosmetics advertising.

    1. Cosmetics Advertisement Requirements
    As stipulated in Article 13 of Cosmetics Act, improper advertisements for general cosmetics are listed below:
    (1) Advertisements likely to mislead consumers into thinking the cosmetics are medicines
    (2)  A) Advertisements likely to mislead consumers into thinking the cosmetics are functional cosmetics;
          B) Advertisements exceeding the scope of the examination undergone on the safety and effectiveness of functional cosmetics, or advertisements different from such examination results;
    (3) Advertisements likely to mislead consumers into thinking the cosmetics are natural cosmetics or organic cosmetics;
    (4) Other advertisements likely to deceive or mislead consumers by misrepresentation, the detailed matters are stipulated in attached Table 5[4] of Enforcement Rule of Cosmetics Act, including:

    a. Product name, effectiveness and other expressions likely to mislead consumers into thinking the cosmetics are medicine.
    b. Product name, manufacturing method, effectiveness and other expressions likely to mislead consumers into thinking the general cosmetics are functional cosmetics, natural cosmetics or organic cosmetics
    c. Improper contents demonstrating that cosmetics are recommended or used by doctor, medical institute, research institute (except certificate institutes MFDS designated).
    d. Advertisements likely to mislead consumers into thinking the foreign cosmetics are Korean cosmetics or Korean cosmetics as foreign cosmetics.
    e. Comparison with competition products unobjectively or using superlatives (such like “(최고)the best”, “(최초)the first”, etc.)
    f. False fact
    g. Undetermined effectiveness.
    h. Vulgar and obscene expressions
    i. Using international endangered species as materials
    j. Slandering other products

    Korea Cosmetic Association (KCA) released some examples of non-compliance advertisement cases[5]:

    Case A:

    1: Easing insomnia, tension, headache and relaxing muscles
    2: To relieve pressure
    3: To stable both physical and mental
    4: Expressions of effects such like relieving pressure, relaxing muscles, easing insomnia, etc. of the lavender and other cosmetic materials.

    These advertisement contents may mislead consumers to think this product as medicine. Though the contents in the 4th part are to specify effects of the materials, they are still prohibited to be used in advertisements.

    Case B:

    1: Prevent hair loss, make hair strong

    As these contents may make consumers consider this product as functional cosmetic, this advertisement is forbidden. 

    According to Cosmetics Act, the term "functional cosmetics" means falling under any of the following:
    (a) Products aiding in the whitening of the skin;
    (b) Products aiding in improving wrinkles in the skin;
    (c) Products aiding in tanning skin gently or protecting skin from ultraviolet rays;
    (d) Products aiding in changing or removing the color of hair, or nourishing hair;
    (e) Products aiding in preventing or improving dryness, splits, loss, cornification, etc. resulting from weakened functions of skin or hair.


    Case C:

    1: Expressions of non-natural materials used in other general cosmetics, such like mineral oil, synthetic perfume, paraben, etc.

    As slandering other products is prohibited, this advertisement is a violation.

    2.  Administrative Disposition
    If manufacturers or sellers advertise a cosmetic against the requirements above (a-j), they shall be imposed with administrative disposition (organized from attached Table 7[6] of Enforcement Rule of Cosmetics Act

    ViolationsStandards for Administrative Disposition
    First offenceSecond offenceThird offenceForth offence
    a, b, jSuspension of advertising for 3 month of the relevant productSuspension of advertising for 6 month of the relevant productSuspension of advertising for 9 month of the relevant product 
    c, d, e, f, g, h, iSuspension of advertising for 2 month of the relevant productSuspension of advertising for 4 month of the relevant productSuspension of advertising for 6 month of the relevant productSuspension of advertising for 12 month of the relevant product

    3. Demonstration of Contents of Advertisements
    Although sometimes manufacturers or sellers advertise their cosmetic products properly, they may be ordered to prove the advertisement that they placed. 
    According to Article 14 of Cosmetics Act, a manufacturer or seller shall be able to demonstrate the matters of relevant factors in advertisements. And the Minister of Food and Drug Safety may request the manufacturer or seller to submit demonstrations of advertisements when necessary. In this situation, the manufacturer or seller shall submit the demonstration data within 15 days.
    If the manufacturer or seller don't submit the demonstration data in time, the advertisements can be ordered to be suspended until he/she submits such data.  

    The scope and requirements of the demonstration data are:

     Scope Requirements
    1Test resultsThe demonstration data shall be human applying test data, non-human test data, or the investigation data whose level is equal to or higher than that of the former two test data.
    2Investigation resultsThe sample selection, questionnaire and question strategies shall coincide with the purpose or statistical methods of such investigation.
    3Demonstration methods:The methods of testing or investigations used for demonstration shall be either widely known in the academic circle or generally recognized in the relevant industrial sector, and shall be scientific and objective methods.

    Other materials:
    When the demonstration data submitted, materials specifying the following matters and attaching materials demonstrating them shall be submitted along:
    (a) Methods of proof;
    (b) Name, representative's name, address and telephone number of the test and investigation institution;
    (c) Demonstration content and results;
    (d) Where not wishing to disclose any part of demonstration data because that part belongs to trade secrets, the content of such part and the reason for disclosure.

    4. Suggestions
    Finally, there are some suggestions on cosmetics advertisement:
    To get familiar with the relevant legal knowledge is priority among priorities. You may refer to CL cosmetic portal[7] to get more legal knowledge information. Particularly, it's better to get well known of the scope of functional cosmetics, natural cosmetics and organic cosmetics to avoid advertising a general cosmetic with expressions of functional, natural or organic cosmetics. And even the effectiveness of material is likely to confuse the consumers, they are forbidden to be used in advertisements.
    Manufacturers or sellers shall be able to prove the advertisements, so even if using “no addition of OOO”, they shall be able to demonstrate it. And when the material is a prohibited material, it can be advertised as no the addition of such material exaggeratedly.


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