SKC Has SeoulAugust 6th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs
And Now They Want the U.S. Market. One of the World’s Largest PET Producers is Bringing Window Film to America
By Casey Flores
As with some of the most iconic Korean brands, SK Group is much more diversified than even the largest of U.S.-based conglomerates. While Samsung’s busy with its phones and washing machines, SK Group has dominated mobile phone networks and PET manufacturing—and is now venturing into solar control film production after a 20-year hiatus.
This is how Korea’s economy works. During the last half-century, massive corporations called “Chaebols” arose to dominate several industries across their companies, and began exporting their products worldwide. There are no U.S. equivalents. SK Group brings in $180 billion in sales a year from its 95 subsidiaries across various industries, which include gas stations, window film, and even some professional sports teams. For decades these companies enjoyed nearly unlimited governmental backing in the form of loans and limiting domestic competition all while they experienced unprecedented worldwide success. Then, the government opened the country up to foreign competition, and Korean companies had to adapt. When it comes to PET/window film (and semiconductors, the chemical industry, cosmetic materials, and more), the group’s SKC (the C stands for chemicals) division is in charge. As for its foray into the U.S. market, Matt Kim is leading that charge. The global window film sales manager knows it won’t be easy, and not just because of the amount of suppliers in the U.S. market.
Kim knows it can be hard for American tinters to trust a foreign-made film, “But SKC is doing things properly,” he says. “We are totally dedicated to making professional window film. We are not fighting the price war—we want to bring them the best product.”
While he’s not racing to the bottom of a price-point, Kim notes the film has cost-saving benefits during production. He says applying nano-ceramic coatings is 300-400% less costly than sputtering film. SKC also handles almost the entirety of the production process—from importing petroleum to producing the PET. The only step the company doesn’t handle is refining the oil.
He notes the products will vary from what U.S. installers have been used to.
“We don’t sputter—almost none of the Asian companies sputter their films,” he says. “We are coating ceramics onto the film. Nano-ceramics are very comparable.”
Instead of reflecting, nano-ceramic films disrupt heat from the sun, effectively slowing its buildup.
“15 years ago Korea started bringing nano-ceramic coatings to the market,” Kim says, partly because metalized film would disturb the country’s EZ pass equivalent.
“That’s why the nano-ceramic is popular now—because of the car systems we have. Now there are electronic payments in China, and metalized films could mess with that,” he explains.
At first, people were skeptical of the product, fearing gradual heat build-up.
“Our film is a very thin film and it can’t absorb a lot of energy,” says G.O. Kim, Korean sales manager. “If I could absorb a lot of energy on our film, I wouldn’t need to sell window film—I’d sell it as a battery.”
Between those fears and the difference in installation, adoption of the technology was slow outside of Asia.
“It was very tough to enter the international market because we had the nano-ceramic films. Now people like it, everyone is using it,” Kim says, noting major U.S.-based manufacturers have begun using the technology as well. “In sputtering you can have a problem with oxidation, but our films’ colors will never change.”
One of the early adopters of nano-ceramic films is 32-year window tinting veteran Ralph Van Pelt, owner of FlexFilm Plus.
“People would make fun of me when I would try to sell it but they didn’t think it could be better than something dyed,” Van Pelt says. Now it’s all he uses.
“The customer loves it,” he explains, and is trying to get tinters to as well. “The nature of the product is changed so, yes, it installs differently. You have to make adjustments, but in my opinion it’s the best choice for value.”
He’s had the best success selling the film using an old-fashioned in-house heat lamp display.
“You have to show them the difference. People will tell you ‘Wow, that’s a big difference.’” he says.
One of the things that can dissuade installers from using it are its look—the film has a blueish/gray tint that they aren’t accustomed to. “That color is actually the particles in the film that are working to reduce the heat,” he says.
Sights on the States
Beyond unique products offerings, Kim is taking a different approach to marketing stateside. “In Korea, we put our film on everything. Asians like pale skin, and our film provides skin protection,” he says. “We are marketing our film like this because it will differentiate us in the market.”
But will it work? Time will tell. SKC is still testing its products in the U.S. and is still searching for a distributor. Kim is determined to crack the market, though, with plans to open a U.S. sales office in the coming years.
Korea is consistently ranked first or second in the world in R&D spending by UNESCO. Beyond the typical good/better/best options for automotive installations, security film, and a range of architectural products, the company has developed and is developing one-of-a-kind offerings.
We’ve covered many window film manufacturing facilities and their capabilities over the years, but what about the base product? According to Kim, SKC is the third-largest global PET supplier behind Toray and DuPont and even provides the base film to some of its window film competitors, though he wouldn’t share which ones.
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