KT&G: From Korean Monopoly to ‘a Global Name in the Tobacco Industry’

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Kelley Lee, Lucy Gong, Jappe Eckhardt, Chris Holden & Sungkyu Lee (2017). KT&G: From Korean monopoly to ‘a global name in the tobacco industry’, Global Public Health,12:3, 300-314, DOI:10.1080/17441692.2016.1273367.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2016.1273367

Date created: 
DOI 10.1080/17441692.2016.1273367
South Korea
Tobacco industry
Global business strategy
Tobacco control

Until the late 1980s, the former South Korean tobacco monopoly KT&G was focused on the protected domestic market. The opening of the market to foreign competition, under pressure from the U.S. Trade Representative, led to a steady erosion of market share over the next 10 years. Drawing on company documents and industry sources, this paper examines the adaptation of KT&G to the globalization of the South Korean tobacco industry since the 1990s. It is argued that KT&G has shifted from a domestic monopoly to an outward-looking, globally oriented business in response to the influx of transnational tobacco companies. Like other high-income countries, South Korea has also seen a decline in smoking prevalence as stronger tobacco control measures have been adopted. Faced with a shrinking domestic market, KT&G initially focused on exporting Korean-manufactured cigarettes. Since the mid-2000s, a broader global business strategy has been adopted including the building of overseas manufacturing facilities, establishing strategic partnerships and acquiring foreign companies. Trends in KT&G sales suggest an aspiring transnational tobacco company poised to become a major player in the global tobacco market. This article is part of the special issue 'The emergence of Asian tobacco companies: Implications for global health governance'.

Document type: 
Open Access article.
National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health