China vs Korea
Buy American! The electric guitar was invented in the USA so there is no surprise that they used to produce the finest guitars in the world. However, in the Seventies as competition grew stronger Fender and the big boys started to focus more on market shares and suddenly quantity became more important than quality. At the same time the Japanese factories really stared to get a hang on building amazing copies of American instruments with more eye for details than the Americans themselves in some cases. Epiphone, Gibson, Fender and Grestch all moved part of their production to Japan for the amazing quality offered to a lower price. The list of world domination on the guitar building market used to be USA, Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China etc. Now things started to change and Japan took over a big part of both USA and Europe’s production. Japan was never really that cheap, well they did produce super cheap instruments too, but the top brands was still quite expensive so in order to increase their profit most of the Japanese manufacturers moved parts of the production to Korea in the Eighties. Suddenly a Japanese copy of and American guitar was now being produced in Korea. As the Eighties became the Nighties even the Korean workers started to feel expensive and production was moved to Taiwan, China or in some cases even Singapore, Indonesia or India. Japan is still the best guitar builders in the Far East but as their prices increased more and more people settled for number two, which used to be Korea but things have changed, again. The Koreans have become sloppy, and expensive so now Tokai and other companies have moved their production to China instead. China is the new Korea. I have to say that the two Tanglewood parlour guitars that my girlfriend and I have are amazingly built for the price. They are hand built in China and I doubt that anything built in Korea today could match that. Korean built instruments from the Eighties are still really good so I believe this change happened in the last 5-10 years. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when the Chinese built instruments gets the recognition they deserve on the second hand market. Today sellers just push for guitars being MIJ, Made in Japan, or MIK, Made in Korea. When will the MIC arrive and how much will they be worth?
My Barnes & Mullins BJ500m 5 String Banjo built in China and set up in the UK