Viet Voice

The Korean Nail Industry

by Kimberly Pham | April 30, 2012 | Bookmark +

I had the chance to fly to Korea for the 6th Global Nail Cup held in Seoul, my first experience at an international competition. The two-day-long event covered 8 different competitions: Design Sculpture, Tip Overlay, UV Gel, Nail Care, Acrylic Sculpture, Team Relay, Top Artist Competition, and 3-D Multimedia Nail Art.

You can read my article in NAILS Magazine here. It links to photo galleries of the competition and 3-D Multimedia Nail Art.

There are two big differences between the South Korean nail industry and the U.S industry. The biggest difference is that South Korea’s nail industry is pretty much run by nail associations. If you’re a nail tech, you probably belong to an association, and nail schools are closely affiliated with these associations. Catherine Wong, an international educator and competitor, says that “Korean nail schools are serious business in the nail industry. They have many branches in major parts of the country, are well-equipped, and they have a curriculum like a typical school would.”

Another difference is South Korea currently does not require a nail license to be a nail technician. (This may soon change if the government decides to implement licensing.) However, even without the requirement for licensing, the nail industry is held to a high standard, and this may be due to the strength of the associations. There are four major associations, the largest being the Korean Nail Association (KNA). “The KNA runs their own nail expo and competition and they conduct a yearly examination attended by hundreds to thousands of nail techs tested in different levels to set high standards for the Korean nail industry,” Catherine says.

In the United States, focus is predominantly set on owning one’s own salon, and most nail techs that I’ve spoken to are way too busy running their salons or taking clients to even think about making time to practice and compete. Throw in the cost of travel and hotel stays and it may not outweigh the benefit of competing. But just in case you may be interested, NAILS Magazine’s Competition Insider blog is written by new and veteran competitors and is a great window into the small but thriving nail competitions in the states.

Here are some highlights of the different competitions during the Global Nail Cup.

The Acrylic Sculpture competition had the most competitors and took up two full rooms with 245 competitors and their models.

The Design Sculpture competition was one of the more creative categories.

The Team Relay competition was the loudest and most spirited nail competition I have ever seen. Team members on the sidelines cheered on their fellow competitors. Pictured here is Team Mexico (who won the Best Costume Award) and the Choi Kyung Hee Nail Academy.

From left to right: Anita Lime-Sims, Viv Simmonds, and Catherine Wong teamed up for the Top Artist competition as a relay team. This was Anita's first competition in roughly 12 years.

The 3-D Multimedia Nail Art were displayed in the lobby of the competition venue with entries from all around the world. The art on the left portrays a traditional South Korean wedding. The art on the right portrays an under the sea adventure.

Here I am with Phoi, Nguyen, and Thanh Pang, who came in from the Kelly Pang Professional Nail Care Training Center in Saigon, Vietnam. This was their first time at an international competition.

— Kim
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