/ 2 November 2005

Kimchi war heats up between South Korea and China

The heat was rising on Wednesday in a dispute between South Korea and China over kimchi, the spicy side dish beloved by Koreans.

Officials here said they hope to avert a trade war over South Korea’s national dish of spicy fermented cabbage and radish, more than 90% of which is now made in China.

Last week the South Korean government toughened inspections and ordered Chinese kimchi imports destroyed after samples failed hygiene tests. China responded with import bans on kimchi and other produce from South Korea.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon said talks were needed to end the dispute.

“I hope the issue will not escalate into a trade conflict between South Korea and China,” Ban said.

China imposed an import ban on Monday on 10 South Korean food products, including kimchi, hot pepper paste and spices for broiled beef, saying they were contaminated with parasite eggs.

Last week South Korea’s food safety watchdog ordered the destruction of Chinese kimchi contaminated with parasite eggs from human waste used as fertiliser in China.

Concern about the safety of Chinese food imports here has risen recently following the discovery of contaminated fish. The matter should be discussed at an economic committee to be set up soon between the two countries, South Korean officials say.

Last year 72 600 tonnes of kimchi arrived in South Korea, while imports in the first half of this year increased 114% from a year earlier to 49 850 tonnes, according to official data.

However, sales of Chinese kimchi have decreased sharply since the dispute erupted. – AFP