Pressured by the US government, the Republic of Korea opened its cigarette market to foreign companies in 1988. Smoking has traditionally been perceived as „unfeminine“ in the South Korean society. Hence, from a tobacco company’s perspective women were a promising target group. But one year after the market opening, the national government passed a law banning any tobacco advertisement targeted at women. Thus the cigarette itself became the most important marketing instrument of the industry. BAT and Philip Morris launched ultralight and superslim version of famous brands which should create the impression of cleanliness and slimness. In coffee houses and at other places popular with young women free samples, lighters and other gifts were distributed. The market share of foreign tobacco companies has increased from 3% in 1980 to 43% in 2012 in South Korea. But there is no reliable data if the smoking prevalence of women has increased, too.
The strategic targeting of females by transnational tobacco companies in South Korea following trade liberalisation (2009)
Creating demand for foreign brands in a ‘home run’ market: tobacco company tactics in South Korea following market liberalisation (2012)