“Luxury goods are so expensive that I buy this at least.”
Mr. Hwang, a citizen in his 60s, who was handing four crumpled bills to a merchant at Namdaemun Market in Seoul on the 5th, said, “It doesn’t matter whether this is a real luxury bag or not, as long as I can hold it and be satisfied.”
Mr. Hwang purchased a bag with the logo and pattern of the luxury brand Gucci for only 40,000 won at this so-called ‘fake street.’ The official selling price of a genuine product similar to this bag is approximately 2.35 million won. He said, “These days, it is often difficult to distinguish between luxury and non-luxury products, and many of my friends also buy here.”
In the first half of this year, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Korean Intellectual Property Office conducted an intensive crackdown on ‘counterfeit markets’ in areas such as Namdaemun and Dongdaemun, and counterfeit goods are still actively sold in this area. There is an analysis that the counterfeit market is reviving due to the increase in foreign tourists following the government’s declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession.
At the end of May, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (Civil Division) detected and criminally charged 64 people who manufactured and sold products with counterfeit famous brand trademarks in the Namdaemun and other markets. A total of 4,194 items of products confiscated from them, including bags, wallets, and clothing, are worth over 3 billion won when converted to the estimated genuine value.
Nevertheless, in the Namdaemun Market area that I visited around 11 a.m. on this day, merchants selling fake scarves, wallets, and clothing similar to actual luxury brands were noticeable on every street. The price of the scarf was in the 2,000 to 5,000 won range, which was infinitely cheaper considering that the actual price of the genuine product was 300,000 to 400,000 won. Expensive luxury wallets priced around 400,000 to 500,000 won were also being sold for around 45,000 won. Places that sell counterfeit T-shirts, such as Celine and Moncler, all attract customers with prices ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 won.
Merchants only asked for cash and bank transfer. When some customers asked, “Is it real?” the owner replied, “It’s a good product. Get it at a cheap price.” He was also seen holding a counterfeit product to a distressed customer and placating them by saying, “It’s really good, so just buy it,” and “The fabric is so good even after washing it.” Some street stalls displayed large signs with luxury brand logos such as ‘Celine’ and ‘Bottega Veneta’ and sold counterfeit goods.
We also saw merchants negotiating prices with foreign tourists using their poor foreign language skills. Foreigners who heard the price could not hide their surprise, saying, “Wow, it’s incredibly cheap.” A merchant who has been selling goods here for 10 years explained, “During COVID-19, most of us stopped doing business because no one would buy the goods even if we brought them in droves,” but added, “As the number of tourists increased, many people started working again in the mid to late part of this year.”
One of the group of Vietnamese tourists in their 20s who visited this place despite knowing that it was a counterfeit market laughed and said, “It’s fun to be able to buy luxury goods at this price.” Another person said, “ I came here after seeing that luxury t-shirts were being sold cheaply on social networking services (SNS). In fact, at first glance, it was difficult to tell whether it was a real luxury product or not, so I wanted to buy it since I was traveling. ”
On the other hand, there were places where the atmosphere was quite different due to the recent crackdown by the Intellectual Property Office. This is a street stall at ‘Saebit Market’, commonly known as ‘Yellow Tent/Fake Market’ in Dongdaemun, Seoul. When I visited around 9 p.m. on the 4th, there were about 5 yellow tents in this area, which was relatively quiet compared to the 15 to 20 before the crackdown.
Last August, the Korean Intellectual Property Office’s Trademark Special Judicial Police (Trademark Police) booked without detention six wholesalers and retailers who sold counterfeit products, including luxury brand wallets and bags worth 20 billion won, on charges of violating the trademark law. The trademark police confiscated 1,230 items of 14 items from 41 luxury brands (valued at 20 billion won).
Even though the merchants are street vendors who received an occupancy permit from the Jung-gu Office in Seoul on the condition of complying with the trademark law, they have been engaging in illegal business, including selling counterfeit products that do not meet the conditions of the메이저사이트 permit. To avoid investigation and crackdowns, they parked vans on the road outside the yellow tent and covered their license plates with black cloth to avoid being exposed to the outside, or continued their business using the sidewalk inside the yellow tent.
Some merchants completely blocked reporters trying to take pictures. One merchant complained, “Since the crackdown has become more severe, fewer people come to set up tents,” and “It’s hard for us to make a living. I’m worried that citizens passing by might report it as counterfeit.”
Anyone who manufactures, sells or stores counterfeit products will be subject to imprisonment for up to 7 years or a fine of up to 100 million won for violating the Trademark Act. Park Joo-yeon, head of the Trademark Special Judicial Police Division at the Korean Intellectual Property Office, said, “Merchants selling counterfeit products appear to be small street vendors, but in reality, they are corporate-type illegal business operators who embezzle high profits equivalent to 70% of the sales price in cash,” adding, “We will focus our investigative power on the distribution of counterfeit products.” “We plan to crack down strongly,” he emphasized.
Seo Young-gwan, head of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Civil Justice Police, said, “Changing citizens’ awareness is important in order to eradicate counterfeit products,” and added, “Please be sure to purchase and use genuine products, and actively report any counterfeit products you discover.”