Jeju Island, off the southern coast of the Korean peninsula, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dominated by the 1950m Mt Hallasan, the volcanic island is dotted with spectacular waterfalls, protected forests, caves and lava tubes. Jeju is home to many unique and endangered plant species, many with medicinal and cosmetic properties. There are over 300 kinds of algae and countless coastal plants, often used by the island’s famous “Haenyeo” women sea divers.
Cosmetics – finished products and raw materials – play a vital part in promoting Jeju’s natural beauty. AmorePacific, Korea’s leading beauty company, has a long-time affinity with Jeju. Back in 1945 founder Sung-Hwan-Suh researched the benefits of Korean botanicals and invested in agriculture on the island. Today the company manages a 1000-acre organic green tea farm that exports to the US, Germany and Asia.
Jeju’s purity and native plants are also the inspiration for two of the company’s biggest skincare brands, the eponymous AmorePacific and the eco-friendly Innisfree. AmorePacific skincare features three Jeju-sourced ingredients: green tea, red ginseng and bamboo sap. Meanwhile, Innisfree uses volcanic clay, camellia petals, Gapado barley, nutmeg tree and Jeju’s Gamgyul tangerine. Its Eco Science range contains a blend of sea plants, including staghorn seaweed, known for its regenerating properties. The brand’s packaging is recyclable and made with uncoated tangerine skin labels. Innisfree’s eco-credentials are further bolstered by consumer campaigns to encourage recycling and reduce usage of paper tissues – ubiquitous in Asia – in favour of handkerchiefs.
Other locally produced skincare brands include Jeju Love, O’Sum, Skin Cure and Para Jeju. Sold mostly in duty free they are promoted as eco-friendly gifts and souvenirs.
Several Korean cosmetic ingredient suppliers – all exhibiting at in-cosmetics Korea – have introduced Jeju-inspired or sourced actives. Natural Solutions’ Jeju Blossom is a flower extract of Yoshino cherry originally from Jeju Island. Bioland produces Jeju seaweed powder while Biobeautech offers camellia seed oil. At its Jeju Bio Centre, Durae Corporation researches and develops actives from Jeju Bija (nutmeg seed powder) and Jeju camellia oil, both of which have skin calming effects. BioSpectrum operates organic farms, as well as R&D and processing facilities on Jeju where it produces dozens of natural extracts from local plants, roots and herbs.
Jeju’s economy, historically based on agriculture and fishing, now relies increasingly on tourism. Some 12 million visitors arrive each year. Thanks to visa-free travel and duty free shopping Chinese tourists are making a beeline for Jeju; and the number of Vietnamese and Indonesian visitors jumped in 2014.
Yet this influx of tourists and investment is challenging the island’s infrastructure and its sustainability plans. Governor Won Heeryong wants to grow the island’s economy while preserving its pristine environment and the local Tamna culture. His aim is for the island to be carbon-free by 2030.
The government is investing in electric vehicles and wind power. But to preserve the island’s treasures, it needs to manage long term viability and ensure balance and equity among Jeju’s ecology, economy and society. Cosmetic brands and suppliers can support this by helping to educate consumers and by encouraging responsible eco-tourism.
[Questions already loom about the volume of Chinese investment. With the Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and China, Greenland Group, China’s largest property developer, has inked a deal to increase its import of Jeju cosmetics to China by $37.5M in the next three to five years. The group plans to boost its on- and offline stores and distribute Jeju products in its hotels.]
[Jeju is one hour’s flight from Seoul and there are direct flights from Tokyo, Shanghai and other major Asian capitals. AmorePacific offers tastings at its O’Sulloc green tea farm and has just published the seventh book in its series about Korea’s tea culture.]
Online visitor registration will open in March. Visitors can register their interest to visit now.