South Korea’s clothing market is being swamped by cheap imports from China with total garment imports increasing by a third in the first nine months of 2002, officials said on Thursday.

Data from the Korean Apparel Industry Association (KAIA) showed apparel from China accounts for 68 per cent of all clothing imports, giving it a market share worth $1 billion.

Italy was second with a 10 per cent share worth $150 million, ahead of Japan, Vietnam and the US with $68m, $30m and $28m, respectively.

KAIA chiefs said China’s lower labour and utility costs were behind the figures and added Korea only exported $620m worth of clothing to China in the January to September period.