Last year’s deficit is the largest since the Korea Customs Service began to track data in 2000. Data showed that South Korea imported 275,631 metric tons of the fermented vegetables, a main side dish in Korean meals, while exporting 24,311 tons. Notably, 99 percent of the imports were from China.
The surplus in the kimchi trade began to wane as Chinese replacements started to come into the country. It turned into a deficit in 2006, and except for a brief return to positive territory in 2009, when Chinese imports were found to have food safety issues, South Korea has been on the losing side of the trade since.
A recent report from the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp. said price was a big factor in the deficit. As of 2016, the export price of kimchi was $3.36 per kilogram compared with $0.50 for imports.
Exports were hurt by the shrinking market in Japan from the economic slump and population decrease in the neighbor country, as well as deteriorating Seoul-Tokyo relations, the report cited.
More exports to other countries, including the United States, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia, somewhat helped make up for the losses in Japan, the report said. (Yonhap)