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When Kelly Yoon, a 38-year-old mother from the middle-class enclave of Songdo on the outskirts of Seoul, attended a school event for her nine-year-old daughter, she was stunned by the designer goods on the other mothers.

“I saw all kinds of Chanel bags on my way to the classroom,” she said.

“Mothers love Bulgari’s Diva’s Dream and Van Cleef & Arpels’ jewellery collections, and a Moncler winter jacket is actually a ‘uniform’ for mums here. The most popular car is a Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle.”

It is a scene playing out across the country, where a potent mix of status seekers, cashed-up home owners and Yolo-ing (you only live once) millennials has combined to make South Koreans the world’s biggest per-capita spenders on luxury brands.

South Koreans’ spending on personal luxury goods, from designer handbags to US$2,000 (S$2,600) puffer jackets, rose 24 per cent to 21.8 trillion won (S$23.2 billion) in 2022 – equal to about US$325 for every man, woman and child, according to a Morgan Stanley report published earlier in January.