17 October 2010

Kimchi Crisis--Say It Isn't Seoul?

There is a Kimchi crisis on the Korean Peninsula as prices are skyrocketing after a couple of bad harvest seasons for Napa Cabbages and White Radishes.  The Korean national press is proclaiming this as a national tragedy as prices doubled in a week and are six times what cabbage prices were last year. Now there are reports that gangs of cabbage rustlers are heisting the crucifer crops to price gouge during the shortage.

Kimchi is a fermented pickled cabbage that is ubiquitous feature of Korean cuisine.  There is a saying on Korean that “kimchi is half of all food provisions”.  It is more common than ketchup in America.  Koreans eat 2.2 million tons of kimchi a year and have it with nearly every meal.

Aside from the constant presence of kimchi in Korean kitchens, it is difficult for Westerners to understand the cultural importance of kimchi. Food blogger Craig Goodwin likens the autumn ritual of making kimchi by Korean families to the American tradition of having a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving.

This price spike has public policy considerations in Seoul’s Blue House.  The Prime Minister is eliminating the 30% tariff on Napa Cabbage and the 27% tariff on White Radishes.  Moreover, Korea is importing these crops directly from China for the first time.  The opposition Democratic party is claiming that the large river reclamation project is destroying farmland used for cabbage cultivation, which the Korean government staunchly denies.

While they are in this pickle, Korean President Lee Myung-bak has been forced to admit that he would only be able to eat cheap and inferior externally sourced cabbage.

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