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South Korean ‘Flower Men’ Buy 20% of the World’s Cosmetics for Men

Sky View/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Nearly 21 percent of global sales of men's cosmetics, a total of $495.5 million, were sold in South Korea last year, according to Euromonitor International, a global market research firm.

That makes the country the largest market and by far the largest in terms of per capita -- only 19 million men -- as well.

Marketers make a point that the new consumers of cosmetics are straight men who are embracing a new version of handsome.

The whopping sales figures are expected to increase by 79 percent this year, reaching $885 million, according to South Korea's largest cosmetics company, Amorepacific.

The market has been so vibrant that SKII, an upscale luxury Japanese cosmetics brand, launched its global men's line of products for the first time in South Korea.  SKII's best selling facial treatment essence is priced at $140 a bottle.  Their boutique spa, like many other spas in Seoul, have seen the number of male clients increase at a fast pace in recent years who pay $224 for a facial and $453 for a facial and body treatment.

In the affluent district of Gangnam in Seoul, where plastic surgery and dermatology clinics have opened shop in almost every street block, Korean men are going further than simply maintenance.

"Most popular is nose surgery.  Men consider their noses as symbol of sexuality.  So they like higher nose bones to look more attractive like Westerners," said Dr. Byung-Gun Kim, director of BK Plastic Surgery Hospital.

The standard of beauty has evolved from strong masculine to a softer look with small and slender face features.

"They're called 'flower men' referring to good looking guys in Korean dramas or movies with feminine features," Kim said.

These flower men are certainly trending.  In the bustling shopping district of Myungdong -- its main street nicknamed "cosme road" for the dozen of local and foreign cosmetics brand shops that are lined up -- advertisements are filled with handsome male celebrities posing as models with phrases like "Bright skin completes a man!"

"Men who don't care about their appearance are actually deemed as being lazy," said Jaejin Lee, producer of a cable television show for men called Get it Beauty HOMME.  The show, launched this week, offers everyday tips on men's skin care, hairstyling and even mustache grooming.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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