Interview with Hak-hee Kang, the director of Kolmar Korea’s technology research institute

Interview with Hak-hee Kang, the director of Kolmar Korea’s technology research institute

in-cosmetics Korea and its media partner, COSIN, conducted a joint interview with Director Kang Hak-hee of Kolmar Korea’s technology research institute, who was appointed as the new president of both the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists (IFSCC) and the Korea Cosmetic Association last year.


1. As you emphasised the 3C’s (collaboration, convergence and creation) in your inaugural address for the IFSCC, what do you think is the most important among them in terms of the development of the global cosmetics industry? And, please provide a brief description of 3C’s.

Two aspects needed for development in this age are collaboration and convergence. While history shows that during the First Industrial Revolution, productivity was improved through division of labour, and the Second Industrial Revolution achieved innovation in the likes of electricity and changed the history of human life forever. What’s at stake at the core of the current Fourth Industrial era is integration. It is about how various ideas and technologies among different types of businesses converge to make new creations. For example, other industries utilise IT and AI technologies to make new ideas that we have never seen before come to life.

Kolmar Korea realises that there is a convergence between bio and beauty industries and that there is a new path in such convergence. That’s why, effort has been made to utilise 3D printers for the cosmetic industry. As such, for the global cosmetic industry to grow further, I believe that convergence between industry and academia, and among countries is critical. Such convergence would not be possible without collaboration, and the result of convergence and collaboration is creation. Since the 3C’s are ultimately connected as process and result, all three pieces are quite important to make a whole.

2. Why do you think that Korea’s technology is constantly receiving attention from the global cosmetic industry?

For the past decade, innovative products that the global cosmetic industry has never thought of – BB cream, CC cream, air cushion, vibrating cushion, and etc. – have come mostly from Korea. Kolmar Korea, as well as Amore Pacific, has changed its strategy to being No.1 in Korea because being the best in Korea means eventually being No.1 in markets all over the world. To back up my previous statement, L’Oreal has also currently closed its Open Innovation team in China and moved it to Seoul. That says something about Korea leading the market trends.

Korean people are sensitive to trends and their hands are very delicate. They also have a strong will to accurately and rapidly show the effective results of products required by the consumers. Korean customers are quite demanding and sensitive in terms of trend and effectiveness. For example, Koreans check the mirror to see how much their skin has gotten brighter on the very next day after they’ve used some whitening cream!

A kind of “desperation” to satisfy the Korean consumers is one of the attributes that drive researches done in Korea. Great ideas come from desperation to meet the demands. Such ideas come into the world by researchers constantly thinking critically and desperately, even while eating or going to the bathroom perhaps. The method behind air cushions was supposedly inspired by stamps. Since the researcher thought about his project at all times, desperately, he was able to have the eye to catch an inspiration in an unusual object that normally wouldn’t be perceived as a cosmetic object. I believe that Korean sentiments, hard work and passion became the driving forces for developing new, innovative technologies.

Moreover, I think the Korean Wave also affected the success of Korean cosmetics to some extent. We cannot ignore the influence of the Korean Wave like K-POP that is gradually growing in popularity around many parts of the world.


3. What is the driving force that makes Kolmar Korea intensively invest a lot of time and effort in the development of innovative cosmetic products?

 Through the four years that I have been with Kolmar Korea, I’ve seen a lot of great work, but sun care products have been especially strong, maintaining the world’s No. 1 position in the category. I think that it is because Kolmar Korea has developed its own distinct strategy to survive the highly competitive cosmetic industry.

Kolmar Korea is prioritising quality over price in terms of competitiveness in the cosmetic field. Indeed, I think low price may be an important part of competitiveness, but quality should be prioritised if we think in long terms. Focusing on quality also helps product developers to consider differentiating products as well. Kolmar Korea has also been increasing investment in differentiation, which in the end would lead to positive development.


4. More specifically, what is the management vision of Kolmar Korea in 2018?

Kolmar Korea has set ‘Gyeomje (兼濟)’ – meaning perseverance and service – as its management vision for 2018. ‘Gyeomje (兼濟)’ in two parties is helping one another by making up for the deficiencies of each side. As such, Kolmar Korea calls for strengthening collaboration among colleagues, departments and divisions to realise our will to overcome internal and external uncertainty and expand our global reach. In other words, our vision for 2018 is “Team Together.” The goal is to pursue innovation through convergence and collaboration, to develop ‘hit & edge’ products that could lead the market through differentiation and to enhance collaboration of the global manufacturers. In addition, we are planning to secure new customers by completing the construction of Kolmar Wuxi in the second half of 2018 and to expand the US and Canada markets by vitalising our existing North American corporation.


5. Last but not least, where do you think we could find the potential to further develop the Korean cosmetic industry? Also, what do you think is needed for the sustainable development of Korean cosmetics?

There should be goals made for both short and long terms. Kolmar Korea puts more weight on long-term goals compared to the short-term ones. If we were to only seek instant gains, there would not be a steady stream of development that lasts a lifetime and beyond. Whether it takes a couple years or more, by staying patient and looking beyond the immediate present, we could easily develop innovative, the ‘one & only’, technologies to obtain more creative and distinct outcomes like air cushion.

Recently, various Korean products have debuted with the K-beauty boom. If you were to take a closer look however, we could see that there are some undesirable, flawed parts as well. We, researchers, can quite easily notice them by taking a look at the prescriptions. There are some companies making undesirable prescriptions. Although customers would use them without knowing anything, it would eventually end up only lowering K-beauty’s quality. K-beauty is an asset to the nation. It’s a national brand. As its size is getting larger, quality should be guaranteed. As such, quality and long-terms plan seem to be necessary for the sustainable development of the cosmetic industry in Korea.


in-cosmetics Korea will run from 13-15 June 2018 in Seoul, with Formulation Day taking place exclusively on the opening day. For more information please visit

One comment

  1. Buenos días a todos

    Hace unos días hablabamos con Roberta del liderazgo que ha tenido Korea del Sru en las tendencias mundiales en cosmeticos, este articulo de prensa lo confirma y habla un poco de su estrategia.

    Saludos, Pacho

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