Korea's Necktie Business Dying out
21 January, 2020
The necktie business is dying out in Korea as the country now widely accepts more casual dress at work.
The number of necktie manufacturers dropped from about 300 in 1990 to 17 in 2018, while the market shrank to barely more than 1/10 of its value from W200 billion to W25.6 billion (US$1=W1,160).
Only the university admissions and graduation season are busy times for tie manufacturers.
"We are busy just for a short while around this time of a year. A few days later, we will complete all orders and have to leave the factory unused," said Kim Young-sik, a tie manufacturer in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province. "We started to see orders decrease a decade ago and now we have no work at all for four months of the year."
An owner works with his wife in his necktie factory in Seoul on Jan. 7.
The main reason is that fewer workers wear ties even in public enterprises, major companies and banks.
In 1999, CJ Group first allowed staff to wear business casual clothes without a tie at work, and most large companies including Samsung, Hyundai, SK and LG have followed suit.
Politicians also encouraged the no-tie trend. After taking office in 2008, former President Lee Myung-bak chaired a cabinet meeting without a tie, and President Moon Jae-in was also seen in relatively casual dress in staff meetings.
But another reason is that the market is mostly covered by cheap Chinese manufacturers.
Many necktie factories here had 20 to 30 employees a decade ago but now only one of the remaining 17 has more than 10.
Kim Gi-soo from Seoul is now operating his factory with just his wife after letting all staff go.
Jang Yong-hyun, the head of the tie manufacturers association, said he would like to tell the president, "Can you please create a necktie day that workers must wear ties just once a month? We want to survive."