- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2018

South Korean officials are mobilizing to restore the country’s standing as the world leader in kimchi, worried that cheaper knockoffs from China and changing dietary habits are undermining the country’s longtime supremacy in the field of fermented cabbage.

The South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Thursday unveiled a five-year plan to promote the production and consumption of kimchi, including promoting locally-produced kimchi and standardizing such qualities as hotness, sourness and saltiness, the Korea Times reported.

The industry acted to bolster the kimchi industry in the face of several troubling trends, the newspaper reported.

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Cheaper imported Chinese kimchi is claiming an ever larger share of the domestic market, with Beijing actually posting a $47.3 million bilateral surplus in kimchi trade in 2017. The World Institute of Kimchi has estimated that more than half of the kimchi served in South Korean restaurants and cafeterias is imported from China.

South Korean eaters are also part of the problem, displaying a declining appetite for the country’s signature dish. The Institute reported that per capita consumption of kimchi in the home has been falling, down 11 percent to 25.3 kilograms per person in the five-year period ending in 2015.

In addition to new quality controls, the industry’s five-year plan includes promoting the use of domestic kimchi in the booming home-meal replacement market; publicizing the nutritional and health benefits of kimchi, including the benefits of lactic acid in helping prevent diabetes and atopic dermatitis; tougher labeling requirements to prevent imported kimchi from being labeled as locally-made; and support for related food products such as salted napa cabbage.

Despite the challenges, South Korea still claims 65 percent of the global market share for kimchi sales. Government officials say the goal of the new plan is to push that up to 70 percent.

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