Kimchi is undoubtedly one of Korea’s cultural pride.
According to the New York Times, Korea’s export of kimchi evaporated into thin air after China’s decision to reclassify the dish as pickled goods after it failed to meet the country’s strict import hygiene standards several years ago, effectively blocking it from being imported. South Korea’s kimchi trade into China went from hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to $108 in 2013 and just $16,800 in 2014.
While China did not accept Korea’s export of kimchi into the country, China’s own version of kimchi flowed into Korea without restriction worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The much cheaper kimchi from China began to undercut local producers as the latter found it more difficult to compete with some having moved their factories into China to keep costs down and others going as far as closing their factories.
Kim Soon Ja of Hansung Food stated, “We are the leaders in kimchi making. But because the material and costs are cheaper in China, there is more Chinese kimchi in Korea. Now, there is too much coming from China.”
Hong Jin Kyung, CEO of The Kimchi, remarks, “Even in Korea there are more people eating Chinese kimchi.” She continues, “It’s sad. I have this sense of pride that kimchi is from our country. But the fact that our kimchi is losing its place in this world… it’s just a little sad for me.”
“More and more people are eating Western food now. About 10 years ago, kimchi consumption was about 100 grams a day (per person) but now it’s only about 60 grams.”
“If this trend continues, I guess there’s a possibility of Korean kimchi disappearing,” said Chung Gyu Oh of Hanul Co, a kimchi producing company, “Of course, that mustn’t happen.”
Of course, nothing is better than the original.
“When you eat Korean chilis, the taste just splashes smoothly in your mouth,” stated local kimchi vendor Park Soon Ja, “But Chinese chili taste, how can I explain this… a little sour and they don’t taste clean. It’s because [Chinese kimchi] is extremely cheap.”
But it’s not just China’s entrance with their own kimchi that is having an impact on South Korea’s kimchi industry, the more modern culture of Korea is doing that as well. More people spending more time on their electronics then eating at the dinner table as per tradition. Not only that, youngsters barely eat kimchi and even less make their own kimchi at home.
Park Soon Ja said, ““Back then, we only had rice and we had many children. We were poor. We had limited choices. I grew old in this market. Nobody wants to make it at home. It’s a bother, and they are too busy making money.”
Source: NY Times